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Seoul Café Show 2019: Three Evolving Coffee and Tea Trends in South Korea

25 February 2020 by Food&HotelAsia


By: Oryoon Lee, Euromonitor International

South Korea’s largest yearly coffee and tea expo, Seoul International Café Show 2019, took place on November 7-10. It hosted 600 exhibitors,more than 160,000 visitors from 80 countries and hundreds of industry leaders revealed their new product developments. Here are three of today’s most notable drinks trends in South Korea.

Sustainable development goals

Sustainability has become more important than ever and is the major concern of the drinks industry. The South Korean government´s implementation of tighter regulations on plastic use in 2018 combined with increasing consumer attitudes towards mindful consumption had exhibitors competitively showcasing innovative packaging that supports the sustainability move.

 Source: Euromonitor International

Among multiple green straws like PLA corn plastic or sugar cane straws, Just Paper’s coated paper straws are the most practical invention of all. Invented just two weeks prior, Just Paper’s straw debuted at the show. The straws use coated paper which is 99% recyclable as paper, biodegradable and glue-free. They meet consumer demands for convenience and sustainability. While consumers say they want more sustainability, many complained about mushy paper ruining their drinks. Just Paper improved convenience by developing a three-times more durable paper straw which is resistant, even with carbonated drinks. In addition, it doesn’t have that mushy paper texture which consumers complained the most about.

Healthy and clean drinks


Source: Euromonitor International

Local tea manufacturer, Jardin, showcased its natural fruit tea brand, Our Tea. The brand added a chunk of dried fruit to the tea bag, creating a healthier impression. Our Tea offers a strong fruit aroma to the drinkers palate and is also visually healthy with chunks of lemon or orange. The development of Our Tea is primarily consumer-driven, meeting the demands of consumers looking for a healthy fruit drink experience; particularly those who stopped drinking juice due to high sugar content.

Source: Euromonitor International

Teazen brand debuted powdered barley leaf tea with a non-sugar option. The company’s offering, named Barley Sprout Powder is a unique entrant to the tea category. At a glance, it resembles powdered green tea or Matcha with a deep green colour. Barley leaf is known to be good for not only high-fibre diets, but also as a hangover cure. The functionality allows it to target a wider range of consumers; from health-conscious females to alcoholic drinks lovers. The tea is in line with the clean drinks trend as well. Teazen highlighted not only the health factor but the product’s zero exposure to bacteria as more consumers are concerned about hygiene standards.

Coffee, more fragmented than ever

South Korean consumers’ spending on coffee represents a huge opportunity for global coffee giants. The coffee market size of South Korea ranked third in Asia and 20th globally. Considering that the coffee culture started not long ago, its growth is extraordinary.

This growth has lead to diversification in the industry. South Korean consumers are gravitating towards coffee that has authenticity, like a house blend from a private small café that is not available to mass-market consumers. A decade ago, coffee in South Korea was often simply categorised in two ways: instant coffee or premium fresh coffee beans. With an increasing home café culture and consumers becoming more educated about flavour sophistication, coffee players have been introducing new products.

The Café Show was a place for unique products to be showcased to coffee lovers and hipsters. The huge range of coffee beans was categorised according to origin and how the beans were processed. Small and local players were the heroes. Specialty coffee shops have grown rapidly and threaten the retail fresh coffee beans market, with personalities that mass brands can’t imitate.

 Source: Euromonitor International

Opening in 2014, February Roasters is the most talked about coffee shop in Songridan-gil,a rising hipsters area in Seoul. One of its major selling point is that the company imports experimental coffee beans, like lemon candy flavoured coffee and has even introduced new generation hybrid varieties. By doing so, the company appeals to younger consumers who look for new experiences. February Roasters claims that its appeal lies in the enormous efforts it makes to communicate with consumers and its responsiveness to changing consumer trends. This is what makes it stand out from big coffee chains like Starbucks.

NothinCoffee is another interesting player. The coffee brand unveiled its own house-roasted coffee beans whose production span lasts only 30 days. After one month, NothinCoffee changes the coffee line-ups to introduce new variants. This creates an opportunity for consumers to try and find more personalised coffee that meets their own taste preferences.

Euromonitor looks at the upcoming coffee and tea market trend in South Korea to be sustainability, healthy drinks and flavour sophistication. While premiumisation trend is expected to continue, the Seoul Café Show showed what features appeal as premium to Korean consumers. The South Korean coffee and tea market* is expected to flourish at CAGR of 4.6% during the period 2018-2023, and reach to KRW 12 trillion boosted by increasing consumer demands for lifestyle pursuing ethical consumption, healthy living, and diversifty.

* A total sum of  Specialist Coffee and Tea Shops, Hot Drinks, RTD Coffee and RTD Tea

Read the full report here.