Meal kits became popular in South Korea when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country in early 2020. People avoided visiting crowded places such as restaurants and large shopping malls and chose to dine at home. Rather than cook meals, busy working people and housewives favored heat-meal replacement (HMR) products that can be consumed immediately or after heating using a microwave oven or a stove.
According to Euromonitor, a global market analysis firm, South Korea's meal kit market stood at 188.3 billion won ($146.7 million) in 2020, up 85 percent from a year ago. The market was projected to grow at an annual average growth rate of 31 percent to reach 725.3 billion won in 2025. However, some analysts predicted that the growth of the meal kit market would get sluggish in the post-pandemic era as consumers would favor eating at restaurants with other people over dining at home.
Lotte Mart, the megastore wing of South Korea's retail giant Lotte Group, said that the number of meal kits sold during January and the first two weeks of February increased by about 10 percent compared to the same period last year. The company analyzed that increased prices of restaurant menus and other food products became a burden for consumers and led them to choose convenient and affordable meal kits.
According to Trading Economics, an economics data specialist, consumer inflation increased to 5.2 percent on-year in January 2023, from 5 percent in December 2022, marking the sharpest increase in three months due to higher prices of public utility and agricultural products that were affected by high petroleum costs.
Similar consumer patterns were witnessed in late January when the government allowed people not to wear masks in indoor environments. Sales of meal kits including lunchboxes, sandwiches and salad packs increased by 18.8 percent at GS25 convenience stores operated by BGF retail. The convenience store franchise operator analyzed that more people chose to eat convenient meal kits because they are now able to consume food anywhere.
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