Ramen rise: South Korea’s Nongshim makes big strides in boosting expansion in Middle East, Europe and US

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

Nongshim is doubling down on expansion activities in the Middle East, US and Europe. ©Nongshim
Nongshim is doubling down on expansion activities in the Middle East, US and Europe. ©Nongshim

Related tags Nongshim South korea Instant noodles

South Korean food and beverage major Nongshim is intensifying global expansion activities, including raising visibility through event sponsorship in Dubai, entry into prominent supermarkets in France, and increasing production capacity for its US plant.

Best known for its hero brand Shin Ramyun, Nongshim has been actively broadening its portfolio to cater to consumer preferences in different regions.

Currently, its halal-certified ramen products are exported to over 40 countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with sales reportedly experiencing an annual growth of approximately 30%.

In a bid to strengthen its presence in the Middle East, the company recently sponsored the Dubai Esports and Games Festival 2024, capitalising on the emerging eSports and gaming sector in the region.

Held at Dubai World Trade Centre from May 1 to 5, the Festival aimed to enhance Dubai’s position as a global gaming hub.

Nongshim’s participation not only allowed the firm to engage with the local community but also enthusiasts from across the globe, as its products were showcased to attendees who got to try them firsthand.

“We were thrilled to take part in the Dubai Esports and Games Festival and connect with gaming enthusiasts from around the world. As Korea’s number one noodle brand, we will continue to innovate and expand our product offerings, introduce rich flavours to new audiences, and create memorable experiences for all,” ​the firm said.

To support its global expansion, Nongshim is considering establishing an export-only factory in Korea, which would boost supply capabilities for the Asian and European markets.

Supply support

Opened in 2022, Nongshim’s second plant in the US has been the pillar of its sales growth in the market.

The surge in demand for Korean instant noodles after the pandemic led to the establishment of this second factory, whose elevated production capacity brought approximately 24% increase of sales (US$490m) in the US and Canada in its first year of operation.

Specifically, sales of Tonkotsu Ramen rose by 20% compared to the previous year due to the increased supply, making it the second best-seller after Shin Ramyun in this market.

In 2023, Shin Ramyun sales in the US increased by 19% compared to the previous year, while total sales increased by about 10% to US$538m.

“In the last two years, various products, especially Shin Ramyun, have achieved great results in the US market. We will strive to maintain our position as a leading Korean food company by having marketing and production capabilities that match the growing global demand for K-ramen.”

As of last year, cup noodle sales made up more than half of total sales in the US at approximately 63%. 

In response to local demand for cup noodles, Nongshim will be adding a high-speed cup noodle line at the second factory in October, which is expected to raise annual production capacity by about 20% from 850m units to 1.01bn units.

The new line will produce square-container noodles that US consumers are familiar with, alongside existing round-bowl noodles.

Additionally, it would boost the supply of products such as Shin Ramyun and Yukgaejang Bowl Noodles, and expand the range of stir-fried products favoured by local consumers. 

Eyes on Europe

In June, Nongshim will launch its brands, including Shin Ramyun, Neoguri and Sun Ramyun (vegetarian ramen), at major supermarket chains E.Leclerc and Carrefour in France.

According to Nongshim, these two retailers account for more than 40% of the distribution market in the country.

The firm looks to bolster marketing at various consumer touchpoints such as in-store pop-ups, as well as events like Korea Expo 2024 and K-Street Festival that are scheduled to be held in celebration of the upcoming Paris Olympics.

Nongshim also intends to use this opportunity to enter other Southwestern European markets, such as Spain and Italy.

At the same time, the company is working to expand its distribution network in Northern European countries like Sweden and Denmark.

“We are targeting the entire European market, including Southern and Northern Europe, this year. We also plan to set up a European sales unit in early 2025 to analyse trends across the region and optimise local marketing activities.”

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