The Federation of Korean Industries (FKI) said on Nov. 10 that the combined sales of domestically listed Korean food companies are merely 60 percent of Nestlé’s, and the export of food from Korea is less than 10 percent of those of key industries such as automobiles and semiconductors. In addition, the domestic food industry’s growth rate for 2011 to 2013 was around 1 percent.
The global food market is approximately US$5.3 trillion in size, which is 3 and 1.8 times larger than the global automobile and IT markets, respectively. Korean food companies are very close to the Chinese market, which is estimated at 1 quadrillion won (US$865 billion) at the least, but they are failing to make the most of it in spite of the popularity of Korean pop culture in the country.
The FKI mentioned that they need to focus on clustering, agricultural corporations, globalization, standardization, systematic quality control, training and R&D in this regard, giving the example of the Oresund Food Cluster located in the border region between Denmark and Sweden. There, 14 colleges such as the University of Copenhagen and Lund University and the approximately 400 companies and research institutes including Unilever and Carlsberg post more than US$68 billion in annual sales with their 250,000+ employees.
Meanwhile, the Korean food industry has yet to achieve standardization and come up with representative brands. Switzerland is currently earning US$300 million a year with its processed ginseng products like Ginsana, although it is not a ginseng-producing country. This was possible because it succeeded in standardizing a ginsenoside component after 35 years of effort. In contrast, at present, Korea’s ginseng production and export is about half and 75 percent of China and Canada, respectively.
Likewise, the number of Japanese restaurants around the world is about 89,000, while that of Korean restaurants is estimated at around 10,000. The Japanese government encouraged Japanese rice, soy sauce, sake, green tea, chopsticks, dishes and the like to be exported along with sushi and sashimi. Experts point out that the Korean government should take a page from Japan’s book.