South Koreans’ unrequited love for Japanese beer is ever-growing, making the liquor the source of the biggest non-fresh food deficit in trade with the neighboring country, data from the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) showed Monday.
Beer imports from Japan in the January-October period reached $60 million, dwarfing Korea’s exports of $3.5 million worth of beers to the neighboring market. The beer trade deficit with Japan totaled $56.6 million in the cited period. Beer tops the most imported food and beverage items from Japan.
Japan’s beer brands Asahi, Sapporo, and Kirin dominate beer shelves at stores and bars. They expanded after they networked with local retailers. Except for Asahi that exports beers directly to Korea, Japanese beers are imported through Korea’s major beverage and liquor companies. Sapporo and Yebisu are imported through M’s Beverage, a unit under Maeil Dairies Co., Kirin by Lotte Liquor BG Co., and Santory Premium Malts by Oriental Brewery Co.
Chinese beers are the second best-selling foreign brand in Korea. Imports as of October reached $31.46 million, slightly below Korea’s beer exports to China worth $39.76 million. China’s best-known beer brand Tsingtao is sold in Korea through importing firm BK Co.
Belgian beers are building up fast popularity. Beer imports from Belgium nearly doubled on year to $21.38 million in the January-October period. Oriental Brewery, subsidiary of world`s largest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev, is aggressively selling the parent firm’s big-name Belgium beers such as Stella Artois as well as other international best-sellers.
The Korean import beer market has grown fast in recent years with import beers armed with diverse flavors and brands threatening local beers. The increasing number of single-person households and young consumers preferring imported premium beer as small luxury has fueled the popularity of import beers while a fall in the price of import beers has further boosted the demand, according to the industry observers.
Recently, big retail chain stores in Korea have launched over 100 import beers and convenience stores are aggressively promoting import beers in a package deal, allowing local beer drinkers to have easy access to import brands.
By Lee Duk-joo and Cho Jeehyun
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]