Westernization of South Koreans’ diet and an increasing supply of wine thanks to the U.S.-EU Free Trade Agreement are having a positive impact on South Korea’s cheese market.
The Korea Dairy Committee recently reported that South Korea’s cheese consumption per capita has doubled since the year 2000. Despite rapid demand growth, South Korea’s cheese consumption is still only 10 percent of the consumption in European countries, which indicates there remains much room for growth in the South Korean cheese market.
According to the Import and Export Statistics by the Korea Customs Service, 76 percent ($141 million) of the $185 million total U.S. dairy exports to South Korea in 2012 was generated from the cheese and curd sector, making the U.S. the number one cheese supplier for South Korea. The U.S. holds a 39 percent market share (by dollar amount) in South Korea’s imported cheese and curd market, followed by New Zealand at 28 percent, Australia at 9 percent and France at 6 percent.
While the U.S. dominates in mozzarella and processed cheese, it lacks variety in the South Korean market compared to other cheese exporting nations. In response to rapidly growing domestic demand for cheese, South Korea’s major department stores and retailers are allocating more space and resources in their stores to attract cheese lovers. The premium grocery store SSG (Shinsegae) Food Market keeps cheese in the temperature- and humidity-controlled ‘Cheese Cellar Room,’ and hired its own cheese sommelier to educate and help customers make the best choices for their tastes.
Hyundai Department Store opened up an upscale cheese store named La Fromagerie, which offers more than 370 types of cheese produced from all around the world. Galleria Department Store’s premium wine shop, Vino 494 Classic, displays a wide selection of cheese imported from the U.S., Australia and Europe. South Korea’s rapidly increasing demand for cheese offers a positive prospect for the state of Wisconsin. Dairy and cheese producers in Wisconsin should stay current with trends and seek ways to market their products in South Korea.