Bread Trends in Korea Sponsored by Host: 40th International Hospitality Exhibition

Chocolate Croissant

For a society whose staple food is rice, the consumption of bread has grown exponentially in the last 25 years. The leading bakery corporation, the SPC group has seen their Paris Baguette franchises grow from 3 in 1988 to 1400 in 2005 to 3316 in 2015 (Hankyung News 2015). The per person consumption of flour foods has dramatically increased from 11.5 kg per person per year in 1965 to 33.7 kg per person per year in 2015 (avg. 32.8 kg). While in the past flour was mainly used for noodles, batters and dumplings; these days bread and pastries have become increasingly popular.

In 2015-2016, it has been all about the full-fat, cream filled breads. This started from the “kopan” bread which is a red bean and cream filled sweet roll. This style of rich cream has since moved to choux, donuts and rolled cakes. Koreans tend to like more of a less-sweet, milk-taste cream but currently green tea flavor has come back into fad. Also, the cream craze has since grown to include custard-filled (regular, caramel, banana and other fruit flavored) cakes and breads.

On the bread front, the buzzword has been “natural yeast, liquid yeast, artisanal, and sourdough.” Consumers are eating up the idea of healthy yeast and naturally fermented breads and terms like “slow rise” and “56 hour” have been making their way into the marketing lexicon. Small artisanal bread makers like “Paul and Paulina” and “Bob’s Bread” have been able to compete against big chains via their wholesome, natural and handmade image.

For other bread products, bagels have made a comeback and can be seen at many major chains now along with many different savory and sweet cream cheese spreads. English Muffins have become mainstream. “Rice bread” is still around but still a niche product since the medicinal benefits are hard to justify to Koreans.

The surprise hit last season was soft castella breads from Taiwan which have long lines of people waiting for them. Lines form 15-30 minutes before the sale and once they are gone, it is gone. I have seen lines 50-100 people deep but now it is around half that since they have opened more locations and there are copycat stores. Also, the 100% increase in egg prices due to the AI flu and other issues swiftly killed this trend.

On the flavor-front for pastries and breads it has been cheese, bacon, blueberries, bananas, coconut, and green tea. Strawberries and red bean are still quite popular as well.

In Korea, trends and tastes are fickle but all indications show that Koreans want high quality artisan products at a reasonable price. They aren't so different from the rest of the world are they?

Be sure to check out these interesting companies from Korea while you are attending Host Milano Hospitality Expo.

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