Food-themed gift sets the star of this Chuseok

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Food-themed gift sets the star of this Chuseok

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From left: Premium Korean beef set, priced at 910,000 won, from Hyundai Department Store; dried and salted croaker fish set priced at 130,000 won from Lotte Department Store; dried persimmon, or gotgam, set priced at 250,000 won from Shinsegae; and a box of wasong, or rock pine, from Lotte Mart costing 49,900 won. Provided by the companies

Cooking has become more popular than ever this year, with cooking classes filling up and TV shows like “Please Take Care of My Refrigerator” emerging as big hits.

That focus on food is reflected in the most popular Chuseok gift-sets this season, which are targeting gourmets of all ages.

After the massive success of its cooking classes for kids this summer, the Conrad Seoul hotel is offering a gift set for the little ones that includes a child-sized apron and chef’s hat, as well as the five-star hotel’s secret recipe for tomato pasta and the ingredients to make it.

The only thing not child-friendly about the package is the price - it retails for 120,000 won ($103).

At Hyundai Department Store, a gift set of sauces including soy sauce, red pepper paste and vinegar made by well-known artisans are displayed prominently.

“Thanks to the popularity of cooking shows, sales of sauce gift sets have jumped by 150 percent,” a Hyundai Department official said.

Homeplus, a discount retailer, is also selling a set of oyster sauce on the back of the Chinese chef Lee Yeon-bok’s popularity on a television show.

Hotels with famous chefs are also offering Chuseok gifts by their stars. The Plaza is selling a set of octopus and eel, cooked with a special firing technique and a sauce developed by its chef, for 300,000 won.

The Park Hyatt is offering a prepared Chuseok charye meal set for 400,000 won aimed at lightening the load of housewives who need to prepare for the traditional ancestral rite.

Following the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), sales of health foods have jumped sharply. Data from Lotte Department Store showed that sales of gift sets involving of health foods jumped 2.3 times compared with a year before.

“Since MERS, interest in health has increased” said Nam Ki-dae, an executive at Lotte Department Store in charge of foods. “We have tripled the offering of red ginseng gift priced below 100,000 won.”

Lotte Mart is also selling an assortment of mushrooms known for their health benefits at 85,000 won.

Desserts are also in high demand. In addition to traditional Korean desserts, a wider array of popular desserts from overseas are also on offer. At CU, a convenience store chain, Tokyo Banana and Ginza Ichigo are sold at 28,900 each. Taiwanese and Turkish cookie sets are also sold at 21,000 won and 39,500 won each. It is also selling its own private label macaroon gift set at 9,500 won.

Galleria, a department store chain, is selling a set of roll cakes by Frank, a famous dessert maker in Itaewon, priced at 31,000 won.

The rising popularity of family trips during Chuseok, instead of visiting the family’s hometown, has also increased the popularity of dried food gift sets.

Sales of a set of eight red tile fish, sold by Shinsegae at 160,000 won, have jumped 116.3 percent. Sales of dry-aged Korean beef has jumped 56.8 percent, while sales of semi-dried sweet potatoes rose 78.3 percent.

“As many families leave home [for trips during Chuseok], foods that are not likely to spoil easily are popular,” said Lim Hoon, an executive at Shinsegae.

As more people are also preferring to have restful holidays, convenience stores have also started selling more hotel packages.

GS25 is selling Intercontinental Hotel packages priced from 83,000 won to 348,480 won including taxes.

There are many hotel packages priced below 200,000 won as well. Grand Ambassador Seoul, Grand Hilton Seoul, Novotel Ambassador Gangnam and Sheraton Grande Walkerhill are offering packages ranging from 119,000 won to 199,000 won including meals and performance tickets.

Hotels are eager to draw guests during the holiday following a prolonged drought of visitors since MERS. The sluggish economy has also increased the popularity of cheaper gift sets.

“We offered fruit gift set boxes priced at 50,000 won for the first time, and we are selling 800 of them every day. This is 1.5 times the target we had previously anticipated,” a Hyundai Department Store official said.

But sales of super-pricey gifts like a 400,000 won premium beef gift set also doubled. Polarization in the holiday gifting scene has also prompted discount retailer Emart to offer a 498,000 won gift set of 17-year-old ginseng.

As retailers sell premium gift sets, hotels are also selling premium services.

Westin Chosun Seoul is selling kimchi “care” service membership priced as low as 100,000 won to as much 1 million won. Service beneficiaries receive Westin Chosun’s famous kimchi every month.

The hotel also plans to offer a one-time bed-making service at the homes of those who buy its linens.


BY KOO HEE-RYEONG [park.jungyoun@joongang.co.kr]

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