Convenience store chain CU makes foray into S. Korea's meal kit market through private brand products

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : April 6, 2022, 11:08 Updated : June 1, 2024, 19:35

[Courtesy of CU]

SEOUL -- South Korea's largest convenience store chain CU has made a foray into the rapidly growing ready-to-eat packaged meal market, projected to reach five trillion won ($4.2 billion) in 2022, by releasing its own meal kit brand. 
Meal kits are convenient heat-and-eat food packages that provide processed ingredients and seasonings so that consumers can easily complete the dish just by following the simple cooking instructions using a stove or a microwave oven. Demands for meal kits have increased among young workers and housewives in 2020 when the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic swept across South Korea.
According to Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation, the domestic meal kit market stood at 188.2 billion won ($154 million) in 2021, up 85 percent from a year ago thanks to people who chose to stay at home and eat meal kits or delivered food to avoid visiting crowded supermarkets or shopping malls.
BGF Retail, the operator of CU, said in a statement on April 6 that the company released private brand (PB) meal kit products packaged inside a pot-shaped aluminum container. Consumers including campers and travelers can simply cook the meal kit without using any extra pots. The meal kits come in four types of Korean-style stews -- spicy pork stew, tofu stew, soybean paste stew and blood sausage soup.
CU's home meal replacement sales increased by 28.7 percent in 2020 from a year ago. BGF Retail will release more meal kit products including steak and side dishes. Various South Korean companies are also focusing on the meal kit market. Emart, the megastore wing of South Korea's retail conglomerate Shinsegae, released a steak meal kit in collaboration with famous chef Choi hyun-seok in November 2021. Domestic seafood company Dongwon Industries also showcased a seafood meal kit that include salmon, slices of raw tuna and octopus.
Care food meal kit products are also gaining popularity among patients or those who need to consume controlled dietary options because of health conditions. Hyundai Green Food, the food ingredient distribution service wing of Hyundai Department Store, released a subscription meal kit service for diabetes patients in April 2022. The meal kit with five dishes is designed to control a patient's blood glucose level and can be cooked just by heating a package using a microwave oven for about two minutes. South Korea's top meal kit maker Fresheasy merged with Dr. Kitchen, a diet therapy company that produces meal kits for patients and consumers who seek healthier food, in November 2021. 
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