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Exports of kimchi continue to increase thanks to popularity in US and Europe

By Park Sae-jin Posted : October 31, 2023, 14:18 Updated : January 22, 2024, 10:51
This image was created using generative-AI service Karloai
[This image was created using generative-AI service Karlo.ai]

SEOUL -- Exports of kimchi, traditional Korean pickled vegetables, have continued to increase by more than 10 percent on-year thanks to consumers in the United States and Europe who recognize the salad-like spicy mixed vegetable pickles as healthy food.
Kimchi, mostly recognized as salted Chinese cabbage seasoned with red chili pepper powder, ground garlic, and fish sauce, has been the core of South Koreans' diet. The salted cabbage ferments over time to become sour. Some people prefer sour kimchi while some prefer freshly made ones. During the last decade, kimchi was exposed to the global audience through various K-dramas and K-films, to have gourmets familiarize with the traditional Korean side dish.
The health benefits of kimchi come from lactic acid bacteria that is cultured during the fermentation process. Lactic acid bacteria produce diverse antimicrobial substances. Through research, the National Institute of Biological Resources (NIBR) found that the antiviral effect of lactobacillus plantarum NIBR97, a lactic acid bacterium isolated from kimchi, is effective in suppressing murine hepatitis virus and low pathogenicity avian influenza. Other research projects found other lactobacillus types are effective against other diseases such as atopic dermatitis.
According to data released by South Korea's customs office, $118,865,000 worth of kimchi was exported between January and September 2023, up 10.6 percent compared to the same period in 2022. The amount of kimchi exported was 33,828 tons, up 8.1 percent on-year.
The annual exports of kimchi marked its record high of $159,915,000 in 2021 when people's awareness of healthy foods and staying healthy peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kimchi exports slowed down a little in 2022 when countries around the world began to re-open their borders and started the normalization process to return people's lives back to the pre-pandemic days. Based on the accumulated exports of kimchi in 2023, the annual export volume of kimchi in 2023 would be the highest ever recorded.
The popularity of kimchi gained huge momentum in the U.S. in 2023 with an accumulated export volume of $30,644,000, up 41.2 percent compared to the same period in 2022. The Netherlands imported about $5.5 million worth of kimchi. Up 15.7 percent on-year. The kimchi export volume to Japan, the largest importer of kimchi, stood at $8,772,000, up 3.1 percent on-year.
Unlike the pre-pandemic days when kimchi could only be found at Korean supermarkets or Asian markets in the U.S., kimchi can now be purchased at mega-stores like Walmart and Costco.

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