Ramen or instant noodles remain one of the most common and loved home meal replacements in South Korea. People of all ages frequently enjoy eating it as a substitute for a meal for their appetizingly tempting taste and easy preparation.
The instant noodle was first introduced in 1963 in Korea when the country suffered from food shortages and the Korean government encouraged the consumption of ramen as an affordable substitute for rice, the people’s staple diet. The price of ramen was about $0.01 at the time, which was fairly lower-priced, compared with prices of other food commodities, but not so many Koreans enjoyed eating the unfamiliar food.
However, there has been a sea-change in att itudes toward the instant noodles over the past 50 years.
Korea has lately ranked first in the world in ramen consumption, according to the comprehensive report about Korean’s instant noodle consumption released by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Aff airs.
The report found that every Korean consumes on average 76 packages a year and a total of 816,000 tons of ramen (about worth of $2.18 billion) were manufactured in Korea as of 2014.
According to the Ministry’s fi ndings, Koreans consumed about 13.3kg of the instant noodles per person as of 2014. Among them, ramen topped the list with 9,153g of consumption, followed by wheat-fl our noodles (2,760g), naengmyeon, (Korean cold noodles) (961g), other noodles (163.2g), pasta (158.8g) and glass noodles (72.8g).
Through from 2010 to 2014, the per capita consumption of the instant noodles increased by 13.9% while other noodles consumption decreased by 6.5%.
As ramen has become a popular foodstuff , Korea’s ramen makers have continuously presented new types of ramen to stay ahead in the domestic market, which is worth around $1.7 billion. As a result, there are a variety of instant noodles such as jajang ramen (noodles with black bean sauce) and jjamppong ramen (spicy seafood noodle), bibim ramen (cold spicy noodles), cheese ramen, rabokki (toppoki sauce ramen), spaghett i ramen and many others under larger retail chains’ their own brand as well as ramen makers’ brand.
On top of that, Korea’s ramen market is moving upscale as Korean ramen companies have recently provided “gourmet” ramen that features the similar taste and flavor of jjajang – myeon and jjamppong served in Chinese restaurants to fiercely capture the taste of Korean consumers getting choosier with ordinary instant noodles. Although these premium products come with a higher price tag than their predecessor, they are gaining huge popularity among local consumers, creating a niche market.
What’s more, the Korean noodles have captured the taste buds of overseas consumers as well, selling in many countries in Asia, North America and Africa.
Total Korean noodle exports last year were estimated at $320 million, compared with the imported noodle of $139.8 million, thereby posting a trade surplus of $180 million for the same year.
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