“K-food” was originally one small movement of Korean Wave which is called in Korean, ‘Hallyu’. The term came from the Korean popular culture built with K-drama and K-pop since early 2000s, and now has a great influence on beauty, fashion, food and beverages.​

Hallyu first spread to China and Japan, later to Southeast Asia and several countries worldwide where it continues to have a strong impact. Fuelled by the popularity of Korean pop music and television shows, Korean food is on-trend among Asian consumers, spurring new product development and e-commerce platforms specialised in K-foods.​

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There is a Korean Food Trend in Asia Pacific (APAC), but also globally

Kimchi and gochujang are the most famous Korean traditional foods, which have a spicy flavor. Over the years, K-food has been very popular in APAC countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Philippines due to its hot and spicy flavor.

However, the strong spicy Korean flavors have been difficult to expand globally in the past. Therefore, K-food manufacturers came up with a new ‘fusion’ concept to make recipes milder for greater enjoyment. This has help increase popularity among foreigners, who are not accustomed to such spicy cuisine.

Fusion recipes are successful both domestically & in export markets

Korean taste is especially developed in instant noodles, sauces and dressings, pickled condiments, ready meals and savory snacks, with signature brands and flavors in the in the global market.​

What are the Korean flavor trend?

Kimchi is the clear winner in flavor trends globally as well as regionally in APAC, followed by Korean, Korean Bulgogi, Korean Gochujang and Korean Jjajang in APAC countries (excluding South Korea). Kimchi flavor dominates in Japan, Vietnam and China, while Bulgogi is most popular in Singapore and Indonesia, and finally Gochujang is also very popular in Japan, Singapore and Indonesia.
Now, let's see the impact of Korean trend in:

Philippines is the country with the highest growth (68%) in food and beverage launches with "Korean" claim in Asia Pacific.²

Many Korean initiatives popped-up in the territory, such as a popular Korean barbecue chain Saemaeul BBQ Restaurant which opened in Manila. Owned by South Korean celebrity chef and entrepreneur Jong Won-paik, the self-named Paik's Coffee, also opened in Manila. There is also the online Korean BBQ and Grovery Store which appeared in Philippines: SIJANG MART, and much more.

Many food manufacturers also tap into the Korean trend to launch new products such as the sandwich cookie brand OREO that recently celebrated the launch of the OREO x BLACKPINK collaboration across the Asian markets, including Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and South Korea.

Over the years, the highly influential Korean wave led by K-pop or K-beauty has caused a demographic shift in food trends in Thailand due to its global popularity. Manufacturers and retailers are providing products that infuse Korean culture such as Lay’s Korean Spicy Ramen Chips and MacDonald’s BTS meal. According to Innova Database, there was a 35% growth in food and beverages launches with “Korean” claim between 2019 and 2023 in Thailand. 

Authentic Korean food products are now accessible across the country with the booming of “Bora Korean Mart” in Bangkok, Nonthaburi, Nakhon Pathom, Ayutthaya, Ratchaburi, Chiang Mai and Phuket. 

7-Eleven and hypermarket such as SiamMakro are also capitalizing on this trend to have authentic Korean food products available on the shelves.

In Malaysia and Singapore, Korean soft power is also very strong. There was a 30% growth in food and beverages launches with "Korean" claim in description between 2019 and 2023.

Malaysia’s first & largest premium Korean supermarket, K Plus Food Market was opened in 2022 with the aim to connect Malaysia and Korea together. South Korean convenience stores such as GS25, CU and E-mart24 made forays into Malaysia too, and Korean supermarkets booming in Singapore as well such as Lee Mart and Chorok Market. 

Food manufacturers and retailers have launched a wide variety of Korean inspired menus and products such as limited edition BTS special package coffee, sweet & spicy Jjang Jjang burgers in MacDonald as well as Korean style nasi campur with fried chicken & bulgogi.

Korean culture is also very popular in Indonesia, where 1 in 3 consumers say: "I am inspired by Korean cuisine". Between 2019 and 2023, there was a 25% growth in food and beverages launches with "Korean" claim in description.

In 2021, Indomilk released a TV commercial encouraging Indonesians to break their Ramadan fast (‘Takjil’) with Korean food (corndog, fried chicken, bingsu etc) topped with its sweetened condensed milk.

Korean street food topokki is also on-trend in Indonesia with many entrants into the market. For example, Miwon Group introduced its Mamasuka brand of ready-to-cook Korean Rice Cake Topokki and its Delisaos brand of topokki sauces, both with the added benefit of Halal certification.​ Some supermarkets are even dedicating their aisles to Korean cuisine.

Korean food gains popularity in Japan, especially among young Japanese. Between 2019 and 2023, there was a 23% growth in food and beverages launches with "Korean" claim in description.⁶  We can see Japanese consumers wait in line for Korean street food at Shin-Okubo in Tokyo for example.

Many companies are developing unique concepts to attract consumers through Korean-style food, such as Japanese food firm Tomato and Associates' that promoted Korean street foods offered at Yakiniku Buffet restaurants, or even Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel which started offering various Korean dishes such as "sundubu-jjigae" (Korean soft tofu stew), "jajangmyeon" (black bean sauce noodles) and "yangnyeom" chicken (Korean-style seasoned fried chicken) at their lunch buffet.

¹Innova Database, Top 5 APAC countries with Korean flavors in food and beverage launches (2019-2023)
²Innova Database, Philippines, CAGR 2019-2023

³Innova Database, Thailand, CAGR 2019-2023

Innova Database, Singapore & Malaysia, CAGR 2019-2023
Innova Database, Indonesia, CAGR 2019-2023 ; Innova Database, Innova Flavor Survey 2021
⁶Innova Database, Japan, CAGR 2019-2023 ; The Korea Times
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