Convenience store lunch box sales up on social distancing

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Convenience store lunch box sales up on social distancing

Three office workers are eating doshirak lunch boxes at a convenience store in Jung District, central Seoul, on Sept. 17. [NEWS1]

Three office workers are eating doshirak lunch boxes at a convenience store in Jung District, central Seoul, on Sept. 17. [NEWS1]

 
One of the big winners in the pandemic is the humble convenience store lunch box, the standby of the harried office worker becoming the default choice for many as social distancing keeps them from cafes and restaurants.
 
The sales of doshirak, or lunch boxes, were up 26 percent on year at 7-Eleven in August. At Emart24, they rose by 28 percent over the same period.
 
“In the past, seolleongtang, or Korean ox bone soup, was considered a go-to menu when people ate alone. Now, since many people avoid eating with other people due to concern of infections, office workers go to convenience stores and buy a lunch box, coffee and snacks and finish their lunch at their desks,” said an office worker.    
 
Convenience store chain GS25 said the sale of lunch boxes rose 5.8 percent when sales between Aug. 15 to Sept. 14 are compared to sales during the month earlier period. In metropolitan areas, sales are up 8.1 percent during the same period.
 
“Even though foot traffic decreased from more office workers working remotely at home, we've seen a steady increase in customers looking for doshirak to eat lunch alone,” said a GS Retail executive.  
 
Convenience stores are actively developing inventive lunch box products.
 
GS25 introduced the Paldo Charim lunch box series on Sept. 18, a variety of meal boxes that use regional ingredients from eight provinces. One in the series that recently hit the shelves is a braised pork lunch box topped with garlic sauce made with the Uiseong garlic harvested in the Uiseong area of North Gyeongsang.  
 
On Sept. 15, 7-Eleven introduced a series of lunch boxes with actress Kim Su-mi, who owns Napalkkot F&B. According to the company, Kim participated from the start to the finish in the making of the lunch box products.
 
Lunch boxes started selling at convenience stores in 2009. They were considered a cheap meal customers bought when no other options were available, and only accounted for 10 percent in the sales of ready-made meals at convenience stores. The market started growing in 2015 as major convenience stores started improving the quality of ingredients and diversifying the offerings.
 
“After local convenience stores started launching premium in-house brands of doshirak four to five years ago, the market for convenience store meal boxes took a huge turn,” said an industry executive.  
 
“As the pandemic changed how people eat, I think the popularity of convenience store lunch boxes will continue on in the second half.”
 
BY BAE JUNG-WON   [kang.jaeeun@joongang.co.kr]

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