SEOUL -- Major brewer Hite Jinro targets young South Korean consumers in their 20s and 30s with lineups such as whisky and spirits. The beverage company has recently become the importer and distributor of Cutty Sark, a popular brand of blended Scotch whisky, to maintain its position as the top player in South Korea's alcoholic beverage market estimated to exceed one billion trillion won ($7.7 billion) in 2023.
According to the state customs office, a total of 26,937 tons of whisky liquor was imported between January and October 2023. The customs office predicted that the total annual whisky import volume for this year will exceed 30,000 tons for the first time. The number of spirit enthusiasts has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic when people grounded by the government's social distancing regulations chose to spend more money to drink spirits and liquors at home than to drink cheap beer and Soju, traditional Korean liquor.
Whisky, which is more expensive compared to beer and Soju, was regarded as luxury goods in South Korea. The foreign spirit was normally served to important guests or was mainly consumed by people in their 40s and 50s who visit luxury bars and adult entertainment bars. However, various easy-to-make homemade cocktail recipes became popular among young consumers through social media during the pandemic.
Hite Jinro will target the country's $7.7 billion alcoholic beverage market with popular whisky brands such as Cutty Sark, released in November 2023, and other spirits such as single malt whisky, Japanese whisky, vodka, tequila, gin, cognac for liquor enthusiasts.
The imports of whisky skyrocketed in 2022 with 27,038 tons, up 72.6 percent from a year ago. Young consumers favored cheaper whisky brands over luxury brands because the liquor was mainly consumed as base alcohol for highball cocktails. About 81 percent of imported whisky came from Britain, the customs data showed.
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