Seafood meal kits gain limelight at industry fair as Korean food makers target ready-to-eat market

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : May 17, 2024, 17:17 Updated : May 19, 2024, 12:34
Opening ceremony of the Seoul Seafood Show held on May 16 AJU PRESS Han Jun-gu
Dignitaries cut the tape at the opening ceremony of the Seoul Seafood Show on May 16, 2024. AJU PRESS Han Jun-gu
SEOUL, May 17 (AJU PRESS) - From packaged tuna to frozen shrimp, seafood meal kits took the limelight at the Seoul Seafood Show, Korea's major fisheries industry fair, this week, as Korean food makers ramp up their charge into the rapidly growing ready-to-eat packaged food market. 

A total of 179 companies from 16 countries showcased seafood and food ingredients at the 19th annual event hosted by the Korea Fisheries Association at COEX in Seoul under the theme "Blue Food-Tech: Innovation and Challenge of K-Seafood." The three-day exhibition ended Friday. 

Korean food makers displayed various seafood meal kits at the fair, including Korea's top canned tuna maker, Dongwon Industries. 
Dongwons ready-to-eat raw fish AJU PRESS Han Jun-gu
Dongwon's ready-to-eat raw fish. AJU PRESS Han Jun-gu

"Although raw tuna was mostly consumed by middle-aged men at a restaurant during a business meeting, we aim to target younger generations and women through raw tuna meal kits," Kim Wook-ki, head of Dongwon’s distribution business unit, told Aju Press on Thursday. The company presented ready-to-eat raw tuna and salmon.

Meal kits include processed ingredients and seasonings, allowing consumers to quickly prepare meals by following simple cooking instructions using a stove or microwave. 

Demand for ready-to-cook meals surged in Korea during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people sought to avoid crowded supermarkets and shopping malls. According to market analyst firm Euromonitor, the Korean meal kit market, which stood at $26.7 million in 2018, skyrocketed to $295.2 million in 2023.
Buils shrimp meal kit I Love Shrimp Courtesy of Buil
Buil's shrimp meal kit "Lobsae." Courtesy of Buil

At the exhibition, Korena seafood company Buil showcased "Lobsae," a meal kit made with Argentinian shrimps with easy-to-peel shells. 

"We are currently selling this shrimp meal kit at convenience store chain CU, where consumers can immediately eat it after heating it in a microwave," said Kim Gwang-ik, a brand producer at the frozen seafood company.

The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives (NFFC) said it is promoting fisheries meal kits targeting Koreans living abroad. 

"Our frozen seafood including mackerel fillet and amberjack fillet are currently being sold in the United States and mainly consumed by Korean immigrants," said the federation's export manager, Yoo Young-sun.

Frozen seafood products displayed at Nonnghyups booth AJU PRESS Kim Joo-heon
Frozen seafood products displayed at the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives's booth. AJU PRESS Kim Joo-heon
The event attracted foreign seafood firms from 16 nations, including the United States, Viet Nam, Hong Kong, and Oman. Business consultations, involving 100 Korean and foreign firms and 20 buyers from nine countries, were held during the event. 

"I believe today's event is very meaningful. Our committee is also working on different initiatives to help the domestic food industry export over $100 billion, just like the Netherlands," said Jang Tae-pyung, chairman of the Presidential Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Rural Policy, during his opening speech. 

The opening ceremony was also joined by representatives from local governments and dignitaries from foreign countries, including Norway, Viet Nam and Thailand. 
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