This summer, seaweed instant noodles are in
With the mercury slowly rising, four major ramen companies - Paldo, Nongshim, Samyang, Ottogi - introduced new bibimmyeon with seaweed. Bibimmyeon is a cold, spicy noodle largely consumed in summer.
Even before such flavored noodles were released, many people have posted their own bibimmyeon recipes that include seaweed on social media. The growing number of health-conscious consumers is said to have driven companies to bring out instant noodles perceived to be healthier.
Nongshim was the first to unveil a seaweed noodle in late March.
Instant noodles usually consist of noodles, sauce and dried vegetables. When developing new products, ramen companies try to change the flavor of the sauce or the type of noodles, according to a spokesperson for Nongshim.
“But for the seaweed bibimmyeon, we differentiated the dried vegetables by adding seaweed as part of the ingredients.” The spokesperson added, “We got the idea from people’s custom of eating seaweed seasoned with red chili-pepper paste and vinegar in summer.”
Other companies followed with their own versions.
Paldo unveiled a seaweed bibimmyeon in mid-April that includes balsamic vinegar to soften the taste of the red chili pepper paste, according to Paldo.
Samyang released a seaweed noodle late last month. According to the company, pear and apple concentrates are added to its sauce.
Ottogi’s seaweed bibimmyeon was released last month in celebration of the company’s 50th anniversary.
Although Nongshim was the first to bring out a seaweed bibimmyeon, Ottogi was the first to market seaweed-flavored hot noodles. Last September, Ottogi generated both buzz and sales with its seaweed-based beef instant noodles. In September, Ottogi sold 20 million units in its first 100 days on sale.
“After the seaweed noodles became a hit last year, we decided to add the taste to our bibimmyeon for this summer,” said a spokesperson for Nongshim.
Noodles with seaweed are generally more expensive than the average bibimmyeon.
When Ottogi introduced the hot seaweed noodle last year, its selling point was a healthy noodle that even pregnant women can eat without guilt. It is priced at 1,600 won ($1.40), more than twice the price of the company’s iconic Jin Ramen (750 won).
The price for seaweed-flavored bibimmyeon is around 500 won more expensive than regular noodles: 1,500 won for Nongshim and Ottogi, 1,400 won for Paldo and Samyang. Bibimmyeon is generally priced below 1,000 won.
“There has been an increasing number of people looking for lighter noodles that are less oily,” said a source in the industry.
The bibimmyeon market has been growing. The size of the bibimmyeon market was 90.2 billion won last year, an increase of 6.3 percent over 84.8 billion won in 2017, according to market research firm AC Nielsen. That figure represented a 15.6 percent increase over 2016’s 73.3 billion won.
BY JIN MIN-JI [email@example.com]