Trends: 2014 Food Trends in Korea
1. Corn is becoming a big import as a snack and it is being imported from Thailand and Vietnam. Korea has always enjoyed boiled corn as a snack but local corn prices have been going up and much of it is being exported. Foreign corn (except from China) are seen as exotic and corn on a stick covered in Butter, cheese and spices is and grilled is becoming a popular restaurant item and street food.
2. Waffles on a stick: This is emerging as a new snack at major social hubs as a street food. The waffle is topped with whipped cream and toppings. It's just a new iteration of the waffle sandwich. I don't think this will last beyond the season.
3. The Selfie Stick: Everyone and their mother has a selfie stick these days and it is the must have social-outing accessory. The trend is that Koreans want the convenience of the stick and it is a "uniform" that lets others know they are out to have fun. The selfie stick is much more convenient than a tripod and the trend is moving away from large cameras which used to indicate a date or an outing. Plus software on phones will let people edit and embellish photos quickly. There is a move away from the need of a computer.
4. Soft-serve Ice Cream with Popcorn: the organic soft-serve ice cream trend is dead and companies like Softree know this. They decided to make a new trend instead. It is the same ice cream with popcorn embedded throughout. This is the cheese and caramel ice cream. It was just ok. The caramel popcorn worked with the ice cream. The cheese got soggy and tasted weird. Companies are trying to come up with new projects that can't quickly be copied. I don't think this trend will go mainstream.
5. Giant Meatballs on a stick: This is just like the hotdog and burger trends of the past just on a stick and the sweet/savory balls are slathered in mayo, cheese and hoisin sauce. It won't last because the pricing is too low, food cost too high, and it needs lots of labor to prep and clean up for it.
6. Sweet Potato and Cheese Crepes: this I think might actually work. The creamy cheese and creamy sweet potato works inside of the crepe. It is filling and satisfying. They are trying to find a sauce to work with it. I just don't think strawberry yogurt works. (Yuck).
7. Alcoholic Ciders: These are going mainstream and you can find them now at many bars and even convenience stores.
8. French Fries and Beer houses: Too many these days. Koreans are very value conscious and while the first places to do this are popular, new establishments are trying to offer high-margin foods and alcohol in an over-priced interior. To compete, they lower prices of beer and snacks to get people in and in the end they can't profit. Koreans are going to start wanting higher-end snacks.
9. Solbing and the Patbingsu wars: They over franchised and there are too many copycats, plus, in the immortal words of Eddard Stark, "Winter is Coming." Many of these franchises with their very expensive ice shavers (I have heard each cost upwards of 10,000 usd) will last the winter. I bet you will start seeing them trying to become restaurants and start to lose their concept by offering pastas, sandwiches, juices, beers and more.
10. The Craft Beer Wars: Craft Beers will last for a while since supply is limited plus customers are getting wise to the rebranding of Kabrew beers being passed off as the house's own beers. New brew houses are starting and they won't let others rebrand. The brewers have pride in their product and soon they will be able to stand on their own. There is more quality control that way. Big corporations like Shinsegae are getting into the game but I don't think they will fare much better than big brew pubs like O'Kim's, Platinum, and Praha which were more European style beers. The trend is for more North American-style ales for now, but I feel there is a lot of room for other regions to become popular.