[Photo by Yonhap]
South Korea’s exports of ramyeon, or instant noodles, have surged beyond 1 trillion won ($775 million) for the first time this year, as the popularity of Korean food and culture grows.
According to data from the Korea Customs Service on Monday, ramyeon exports amounted to $785.25 million in the first 10 months of this year, up 24.7 percent from a year ago.
The amount has surpassed last year’s entire exports of $765.41 million, renewing the record for the ninth consecutive year since 2015.
When calculated with an exchange rate of 1,300 won per dollar, exports amount to about 1.02 trillion won. It is the first time for ramyeon exports to surpass the 1 trillion won milestone.
Forecasts indicate that exports of ramyeon are expected to exceed the record-high annual export volume of last year, which stood at 215,953 tons. Until October this year, ramyeon exports reached 201,363 tons, up 13.9 percent from a year ago.
By country, China emerged as the top destination with $174.45 million, followed by the United States ($107 million), Japan ($48.66 million), the Netherlands ($48.64 million), Malaysia ($39.67 million), and the Philippines ($30.9 million).
Considering the revenue generated from sales produced in overseas local factories included in last year’s export figures, the estimated total revenue stands at around 2.4 trillion won.
With the growth trajectory observed this year, it is projected that revenue solely from ramyeon sales abroad may approach a staggering 3 trillion won.
The expansion is largely credited to the heightened interest in Korean food, with products like Samyang Foods’ Buldak-bokkeum myeon, also known as Hot Chicken Flavor Ramyeon, leading the charge, captivating global taste buds.
Samyang Foods achieved a milestone in its quarterly overseas sales, surpassing 200 billion won for the first time. In the third quarter, the company recorded 239.8 billion won, up 78.3 percent from a year earlier.
Considering Samyang Foods’ total sales in Korea and abroad stood at 335.2 billion won for the third quarter, it is evident that the company is generating more revenue abroad than in Korea.
The company is also seeing the benefits of establishing local entities in the U.S., China, and Japan.
The U.S. branch of Samyang Foods, which generated substantial revenue since last year, witnessed a 142 percent increase in sales in the third quarter, while the Japanese branch, established in 2019, saw a 45.7 percent growth in revenue.
Korea’s No. 1 ramyeon manufacturer Nongshim and other players like Ottogi are also performing well in overseas markets.
Nongshim reported an overall overseas sales revenue of 303 billion won in the third quarter, up 8.6 percent on year. Although overseas branch sales reached 235.5 billion won, down 2.4 percent from the previous year, forecasts suggest a resurgence in overseas branch sales, driven by the winter ramyeon season.
Nongshim’s popular products like Shin Ramyun and Jjapaguri have gained significant recognition, even featuring in the movie “Parasite,” which elevated their profile internationally.
“After starting operations of the second U.S. factory last year, overseas sales experienced significant growth, maintaining a similar level thereafter,” the company said. “In China, we’re still feeling the effects of the economic downturn, so we’re trying to increase profits by cutting back on promotions.”
Shin Ramyun’s premium product, Shin Ramyun Black, was hailed as the world’s best ramyeon by The New York Times in 2020.
Ottogi, while recording the lowest overseas sales among the three major Korean ramyeon companies at 87.6 billion won in the third quarter, still marked a 3.1 percent growth compared to the same period last year.
By Kim Geum-yi and Minu Kim
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