MAFRA Minister Exclusive Part II: Experiential marketing and second-line cities to take centre stage in food export strategy

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

South Korea’s national food export strategy will see experiential marketing and support for food firms to export to second-line cities worldwide be major areas of focus. ©Getty Images
South Korea’s national food export strategy will see experiential marketing and support for food firms to export to second-line cities worldwide be major areas of focus. ©Getty Images

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The South Korean government’s national food export strategy will see experiential marketing and support for food firms to export to second-line cities worldwide become major areas of focus, amid its bid to hit an 80% overseas favourability rating by 2027.

In the first part​ of our exclusive interview with South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (MAFRA), Deputy Minister Kwon Jae-han had revealed that MAFRA was developing its ‘Adventurous Table’ Korean food exports strategy to improve the visibility and popularity of Korean foods worldwide.

Convenience foods and fermented foods are expected to be major categories leading this charge, and in addition to this Kwon also laid out some of the ministry’s specific development plans as part of this strategy.

“The first thing we have noted is that consumers’  levels of awareness as well as preferences for Korean food are very different from city to city, based on their awareness and acceptance of this cuisine in different markets,”​ he told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“As such, we plan to differentiate our promotion strategies in each market according to the existing level of expansion of Korean food in each city and region, and apply such differentiated strategies to each city and region.

So for cities where consumer awareness of Korean food is low, we will look to trigger their interest in Korean food by co-operating with local influencers or by connecting Korean food with Korean cultural content (also known as K-content) from an entertainment perspective​.

“As for cities where consumers have a high level of awareness, we will instead focus on enabling local consumers to directly experience Korean foods via K-food pop-up stores, by presenting Korean food recipes using local food ingredients, and so on.

“A key consideration for MAFRA is to enable as many consumers to get the K-food experience as naturally as possible, because we also have a target of improving the favourability rating of Korean foods overseas to become 80% by 2027 which can only happen this way.”

In terms of specific markets, Kwon highlighted that many North East Asian cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo have already shown a pre-dominance in terms of K-food appreciation, evidenced by the large number of Korean restaurants available in these cities as well as general consumer feedback.

“However, the popularity of Korean food in South East Asia such Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and so on has also been rising sharply during the past five years [and we want to capitalise on this],”​ he added.

“Further away, Korean food has also shown significant growth in markets such as Paris, France where the number of Korean restaurants has more than doubled compared to that of the pre-pandemic period; and we also know that 11 out of 72 Michelin-starred restaurants in New York are Korean.

“So we think it is important to ride on this popularity and have been looking at foodservice strategies such as designating some of the world’s top Korean restaurants as ‘Excellent Overseas Korean Restaurants’; [and there are also plans to] connect with large events such as the Paris 2024 Olympics.

“For markets which are very new to us such as the Middle East, Central and South America, and India, the focus will be on things like holding K-Food fairs as a means of promotion.”

Second-line cities, top-line importance

In addition to these geographically-targeted strategies, MAFRA also believes that second-line markets hold the key to its next phase of global Korean food growth.

“A second-line market refers to local cities surrounding metropolises, such as Texas in the United States, Qingdao in China, and Kyoto in Japan,”​ he said.

“We plan to also provide strong support for Korean foo companies to supply their products to local firms, distributors and supermarkets in these second-line markets as well as to hold Korean food fairs in these local cities.

“We also see a strong need to boost K-food sales by taking advantage of both online and offline distribution channels operating in these foreign markets – for instance, we are looking at focusing on food product promotions in big-box retailers such as Costco and H-mart so as to provide consumers with more opportunities to experience and taste Korean foods.

“This is a very important strategy, as it will allow consumers direct access to both traditional representative Korean foods such as kimchi as well as newer processed foods such as our local-style confectionery and beverages.”

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