Japanese consumers wait in line to grab a taste of Nongshim’s instant noodle Shin Ramyun. The company has been arranging tasting events across the country by setting up a “kitchen car.” [Photo provided by Nongshim Co.]
South Korea’s leading food and beverage companies see substantial progress in capturing the taste buds of Japanese consumers known for high-quality palates in hopes to be part of the country’s diverse culinary culture.
Nongshim Co., Korea’s largest manufacturer of instant noodles and snacks, raised $39.8 million in sales in Japan last year, up 30 percent from $30.65 million in the previous year. The company has lifted its sales target to $47 million this year.
An unnamed official from Nongshim said that Japan is a market that it cannot let go of considering that it is the originating country of ramen. Ever since the company shipped its first best-selling instant noodles Shin Ramyun to Japan in 1987, it has built brand power and carried out diverse marketing activities that led to a sales increase.
Nongshim opened a Tokyo office in 1981 before setting up a local distributor in 2002. Popular brands in Japan now include Shin Ramyun, Neoguri, and Budae Jjigae instant noodles and Shin Ramyun instant cup noodle, according to the company.
Seoul-based food company CJ Cheil Jedang Corp. has also captured Japanese consumers with Petitzel Micho - a vinegar-based drink. Last year, it has expanded market share to over 10 percent.
The company said that the growing popularity of its drink is significant considering Japan is home to black vinegar made with fermented brown rice. Japan’s vinegar drink market is valued at 90 billion won ($79.2 million), which is twice larger than that of Korea.
Petitzel Micho and Bibigo K meat sauce
CJ Cheil Jedang introduced green grape- and green apple-flavored vinegar drinks in Japan in 2015 and has since gained huge popularity. The company said that it has shared different recipes using the vinegar drinks to make different-flavored yogurt and cocktail products. The drinks are being supplied to the county’s 25 Costco stores.
CJ Cheil Jedang’s Bibigo K marinade sauce is also receiving positive reviews from Japanese locals. Sales of the sauce - which is a yakiniku sauce or tare in Japanese that is used to season or dip meat before grilling - has increased by a double digit percentage on average in the last three years, the company said.
Hite Jinro Co., a leading beer and distilled rice liquor soju manufacturer, has also captivated Japanese drinkers. Its local entity Jinro Japan that was set up in 1988 has raised 172.5 billion won in sales last year.
Other Korean franchise firms are expanding their presence in Japan. Dessert café Sulbing opened its first store in Harajuku in Tokyo last June and recently opened its second one in the bustling streets of Fukuoka. Chicken brand Goobne also opened its first store in Shinjuku with hope to share Korea’s popular chimaek or fried chicken and beer culture.
By Jeon Ji-hyun
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]