South Korea which achieved global spotlight with its quick and clever mix of IT and bio technologies to fight COVID-19 has gained momentum to push its convergence skill to build on food technology based on its rich traditional diet resources.
Despite strong quality standards, Korean food industry has not gained global competitiveness because it has been slow in incorporating latest technologies such as artificial intelligence and Internet of Things.
Lee Gi-won, a food science and biotechnology professor at Seoul National University said market value of Los Angeles-based meat substitutes producer Beyond Meat is several times higher than Korea’s biggest food company CJ CheilJedang that generates much more sales due to the lack of technological capabilities and patents.
Industry experts recommend more degree programs at universities and R&D ventures between the academy and businesses to merge new innovations onto food development.
Lee said the food science industry is emerging as a promising sector in the future so the academic and business world alike should closely cooperate to nurture human resources and strengthen R&D.
Yoon Seok-chan, executive director at local management consulting firm T-Plus, said startups’ technologies and large firms’ infrastructure should be combined to seek convergence of each sector including alternative foods, robotics, manufacturing, farming and production.
[Photo by Yonhap]
Experts say the COVID-19 pandemic and heightened interest in healthy food could give the country opportunities to promote Korean foods in a broader world. Lee Chul-ho, an honorary professor at Korea University, said that Korea is famous for fermented food such as kimchi and soybean paste called doenjang as well as ginseng products known to boost immunity, and has a great potential to lead the food tech market by capitalizing on the rising interest in food security, health and immunity levels amid the pandemic.
According to Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade, overseas shipments of Korean agricultural and fishery products rose 2 percent from the previous year to $2.29 billion during the January to March period. Exports of agri-food and processed food grew at a faster pace of 5.8 percent to $1.74 billion over the same time. Kimchi exports jumped 19 percent, ginseng products 5.9 percent, Korean instant noodle called ramyun 27.5 percent and rice-processed food 20.9 percent.
Korea also has strength in food retail sector including delivery service. Local food delivery firms such as Baemin that are fiercely competing in the domestic market could look to the global market when the demand for delivery services is surging due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
By Lee Ho-seung, Shim Hee-jin, Kang Min-ho and Choi Mira
[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]