Korean food continues to surge in popularity across America, thanks to celebrity chefs embracing and endorsing Korean flavors and the public gaining access to Korean barbecue and rice bowls. In 2016, Korean restaurants represented a $5.0 billion market in the United States. Compared to the more established Chinese and Mexican food markets, Korean food is 7x smaller, demonstrating a significant opportunity for growth.
The question remains, why hasn’t Korean food in the United States achieved its full potential? We see the problem as two-fold:
- Inaccessibility – Korean food products tend to only be found in Korean grocery stores located in Korean neighborhoods, sometimes known as Koreatowns. Traveling to these stores is cumbersome, and for people new to Korean food, walking through a grocery store with labels written in a foreign language can be a daunting experience.
- Lack of Education and Marketing – While chefs and restauranteurs have done a noteworthy job of showcasing Korean flavors through fusion or Asian-inspired cuisines, they stop short of educating the mainstream consumer. Current Korean food brands are content with marketing to Korean and Korean American consumers, oftentimes not even translating their packaging to English. If the packaging is translated to English, there is little consideration in educating the consumer on how to use and incorporate their products.
Here at KPOP Foods, we’re focused on fixing a tangible problem and seizing the opportunity by building a Korean food brand that people can resonate with and embrace. By capturing the special flavors of Korean food in user-friendly products, we can access mainstream distribution channels and capitalize on social media and content creation, allowing us to position ourselves at the forefront of the growth of Korean food with the goal of becoming the Korean food brand for America.
Why Korean Food
Korean cuisine is filled with spicy, savory, and mouth-watering flavors. The rise of Korean BBQ has created a gateway for people to experience these flavors and enjoy the holistic experience of Korean dining – the sizzling meat on the tabletop grill, the color and abundance of banchan, or side dishes, and bustling of activity. Chefs and restauranteurs fell in love with the culture and chefs, such as Roy Choi and David Chang, have introduced Korean-inspired concepts that have brought Korean flavors to the forefront of cuisine in America. The popular social media platform, Pinterest, identified Korean condiments as a top food trend for 2018 and award-winning journalist and food critic, Jonathon Gold, identified Korean flavors as a top 10 food trend in Los Angeles for 2018. However, despite this notoriety and traction, Korean food brands continue to ignore the opportunity to interact with mainstream America, presenting the opportunity for KPOP Foods.
This opportunity also come with a deeper connection between Korean cuisine and KPOP Foods’ mission. A fundamental aspect of Korean cuisine is the sharing of food amongst family members, friends, and new guests at the table. The nature of eating from shared plates and bowls promotes a special sense of inclusiveness and a connection with those you share your meal with. This spirit ties directly to our mission of bringing people together and uplifting spirits through food, a key part of the inspiration that led to our focus in Korean food and the start of KPOP Foods.