The Korea Herald

ssg
피터빈트

Korean ramen exports hit record high amid global K-culture boom

Total sales estimated to exceed W2tr globally; Top 3 destinations include China, US, Japan

By Kim Hae-yeon

Published : Nov. 20, 2023 - 15:34

    • Link copied

A customer shops for ramen at a supermarket in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap) A customer shops for ramen at a supermarket in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

Korean exports of instant noodles have been continuing a winning streak, hitting the milestone of 1 trillion won ($777 million) for the first time.

According to estimates from the Korea Customs Service on Monday, ramen exports reached $785.25 million for the January-October period this year, a 24.7 percent surge from the same period last year.

The figure has already exceeded last year’s total exports of $765.41 million.

Ramen exports have now shown annual growth every year since 2015.

In terms of export volume, 201,363 metric tons were exported during the same period, up 13.9 percent from a year prior. The export volume is also likely to post a record-high figure for the full year.

Industry sources say the nation’s ramen sales in overseas markets, including exports and direct sales, are estimated to exceed 2 trillion won. Several Korean firms are now producing ramen at overseas plants to better meet regional demand.

Nongshim, the nation’s largest maker and exporter of ramen, produces ramen at US and Chinese plants, sales of which combined for 90 billion won last year.

In the first quarter of this year alone, the company saw more than half of its operating profits come from its US subsidiary. The local unit posted 18 billion won in operating profits in the first three months, a whopping 604.7 percent jump from the year before.

“Based on increased productivity of the second plant in the US, which started operating in 2022, we are quickly expanding beyond the Asian market,” a Nongshim official said. The official also cited that its expanded distribution network in the US also played a key role in its growing presence in the crucial market.

Samyang Foods, another leading ramen seller here, said its exports reached 587.6 billion won in this year's third quarter, up from the previous year's 450.7 billion won in the same period.

The firm's global sales, which constituted 7.1 percent of its total sales in 2011, have soared to some 72 percent of the firm's total sales as of the third quarter this year.

"We are constantly expanding our most popular Buldak Ramen product line with a variety of flavors tailored to suit the preferences of foreign consumers," an official at Samyang Foods said. "Recognizing that global sales surpass domestic sales, our strategy is on delivering unique and spicy flavors our brand is known for."

The upbeat figures are largely being driven by the growing popularity of Korean TV dramas and movies, which have raised the profile of Korean ramen, as well as other Korean foods, globally.

Ramen is exported to 128 countries around the world, with China, the US and Japan being the largest destinations.

In the January-October period, China topped the imports at $174.45 million, followed by the US ($107 million), Japan ($48.66 million), the Netherlands ($48.64 million), Malaysia ($39.67 million) and the Philippines ($30.9 million).

Australia ($30.16 million), Thailand ($30.07 million), the UK ($29.8 million) and Taiwan ($28.13 million) were also included in the top 10 destinations for Korean ramen.

Among Middle Eastern nations, the United Arab Emirates ranked 15th with $12.24 million in exports, while Saudi Arabia ranked 18th with $8.99 million.