An important destination for Scottish food and drink exports

IT may surprise you that Korea was the fourth fastest growing food and drink (F&D) exports market by value for the UK in 2017. British F&D exports to South Korea grew 55% year on year, and the upward trend is expected to continue.

The depreciation of the pound has made products more affordable, and this has particularly boosted export figures. With whisky, salmon and beer being the top export items to Korea, all associated closely with Scotland, the region is a major market of interest for Korean companies and their consumers.

According to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Korea ranked first in terms of consumption of fish and fishery products in 2016 followed by Norway and Japan respectively. In that year, per capita consumption of fishery products in Korea amounted to 58.4kg, whereas the global average consumption was 20.2kg.

The reasons behind this are the emergence of health-conscious dietary trends amongst Korean consumers, the intake of high quality protein and healthy fats, and the growing popularity of home meal replacement (HMR) that contain seafood. A combination of these trends is driving the growth of fish and fishery products consumption, making Korea the world’s largest fish consumption market. And this has consequently increased the imports of fish and fishery products into Korea, creating opportunities for foreign exporters of such products.

To capture this emerging opportunity, hypermarkets in Korea are currently seeking to work with overseas suppliers whose products could cater to the ever-sophisticated tastes of their consumers. In particular, Scottish salmon and mackerel have a strong reputation and consumer popularity despite being a late-mover because antibiotics and growth hormones shots are not used in Scottish fish farming. We believe that this all presents an opportunity for Scottish F&D companies to forge strong partnerships with Korean retailers.

We have also witnessed the growth of alcoholic beverages exports from Scotland. Spirits such as whisky used to be perceived by the majority of Korean consumers as something for the older generation, but the perception is gradually changing and more and more younger populations are switching to the Scottish taste, helping to grow the spirits segment.

The growing popularity of fine-dining and growing interests in foreign brands are also driving the sales of spirits. William Grant & Sons’ products have a passionate fan base as The Balvenie, Grant’s, Glenfiddich and Hendrick’s Gin are well established in the market.

Beer imports, likewise, have seen a strong export surge, as young consumers seek different tastes of beers. Imported beers now account for 55.5% of the total beer sales in convenient stores, outselling domestic competitors. A new social trend of drinking alone at home, instead of going to bars for costly drinks, has also contributed to the rapid growth of beer imports.

Consumers are increasingly demanding more diverse British craft beers, as domestic craft beer players fail to satisfy their ever-more sophisticated tastes. Scottish brewery Brewdog reported a sales growth of 226% year-on-year in July 2017.

You can be the next success story! Contact the British Chamber of Commerce Korea to hear more about such opportunities and how we can help you to realise them.