Korea’s seaweed is the next big snack

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Korea’s seaweed is the next big snack

The latest trend in the 6 trillion-dollar global food market is “snackification.” American business magazine Forbes named “snacking” as the global food and drinking trend. According to Hartman Group, a consulting firm on food industry, nine out of ten Americans have more than three snacks a day.

Experts say healthy and nutritious snacks would lead the growth of the global snack market. And Korea already has a very promising healthy snack item: dried seaweed. Until recently, consumers of seaweed had been limited to the cultures where rice is the main staple, such as Korea and Japan. But lately, popularity of Korean seasoned seaweed grew in the United States and China, and the total export last year was 300 million dollars.

Seasoned seaweed, which makes up 74 percent of total seaweed export, is mostly consumed as a side dish for rice. But in the United States and China, it is considered a snack, just like potato chips, and the scope of the seaweed market is drastically expanding. Now that seaweed products made and packaged for snack are introduced to the market and can be enjoyed by those who do not eat rice as main staple.

Interestingly, the leader in the seaweed snack market is Thailand, where no seaweed is produced. Under the slogan of “Kitchen of the World,” Thailand has been focusing on nurturing food industry. From the early 2000s, Thailand has developed various products such as fried seaweed, smoked seaweed and fruit-flavored seaweed using seaweed imported from Korea and other countries based on inexpensive labor cost.

While Korea came in late, Korean companies started introducing snack items two, three years ago. Types and flavors are diversified, with nuts, other seafood and grains added. Furthermore, products using the preferred ingredients of the countries where seaweeds are exported to could be developed. Seaweed snack could become a Korean wave in food, loved by people around the world.

The government is supporting product development and marketing for seaweed snack. As seaweed snack goes well with beer, the beer-and-seaweed promotion will be launched in collaboration with drinks industry. Hopefully, Korea will find a vein of gold of global food market with the beer-and-seaweed project.

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