Korea is bringing out the big salads as the greens rise in popularity

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Korea is bringing out the big salads as the greens rise in popularity

Office workers at a salad restaurant in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. [JOONGANG PHOTO]

Office workers at a salad restaurant in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. [JOONGANG PHOTO]

 
The popularity of salad as a one-and-done meal is rising in Korea, with its market value surpassing 1 trillion won ($855 million) last year.  
 
Salad was once only regarded as a side dish that people would eat with a main dish. But an increasing number of people, especially from the younger generations, are choosing to eat salads as their main dish as the demand for healthy food grows.
 
“I eat too many carbohydrates if I have a full meal,” said 33-year-old office worker Baek Ji-hyun. “I like how I can [naturally] get my intake of vitamins and fiber if I have a salad for my meal every day.”
 
More than 20 percent of people said they started buying more salads following the Covid-19 outbreak, according a survey conducted by the Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation.
 
Responding to this demand, food companies are opening salad restaurants, and restaurants are investing more resources toward developing different styles of salads.
    
SPC Group’s Pig in the Garden salad restaurant franchise saw its on-year sales rise 68 percent from January through July.
 
Salady, another salad restaurant franchise, opened its 200th store last week.
 
“We haven’t seen a single store shut down after 2019, even during the Covid-19 crisis,” said a Salady spokesperson. “We opened more than 90 new stores this year.”
 
The market for fruits and salads reached 1.14 trillion won last year, up 21 percent on year from 936.9 billion won in 2019, according to data by Korea Rural Economic Institute (KREI).
 
The 2019 figure rose just 5 percent from 889.4 billion won a year earlier.
 
 
“The use of vegetables by restaurants and food distributors is rising rapidly, in line with consumers’ growing pursuit for health and convenience,” said Kim Sang-hyo, a KREI spokesperson.
 
Ingredients used in these salads are becoming more diverse as the market grows.
 
Salads used to consist of mostly just vegetables and maybe some fruit, without many other additions.
 
Salads these days have become more premium and can be found featuring diverse ingredients ranging from different types of cheese, such as ricotta and burrata, nuts, beans, chicken, salmon and more.
 
Pig in the Garden rolled out its shrimp corn salad and a salad that contains noodles made out of tofu for its summer specials.  
 
“I didn’t think eating just vegetables would be enough for a meal,” said Kim Jeong-hun, a 45-year-old office worker. “But I started to try salads when I went out to eat with my younger colleagues, and began to think that salads could be considered a meal since they also may come with bread, meat and corn” along with the other typical vegetables.  
 
Restaurants specializing in other foods are also investing more toward developing premium salad items on the menu.
 
“Salad is normally categorized as an appetizer, but demand grows every year, and customers want more diverse types of salads,” said a chef at Mad for Garlic, an Italian restaurant franchise. “We are putting as much effort into developing salads as main dishes.”
 
CJ Foodville opened its Where’s My Salad franchise in June, while Dongwon Home Food opened Crispy Fresh, a salad cafe, early this year.
 

BY LEE SO-AH, JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]
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