Korea's rise of single-person households influences businesses to think small
Single-person households are dominating the Korean population, becoming a driving force for businesses catering to them specifically.
Farmer Park Sam-sup, who has been farming bell peppers since 2017, attributes his success to the growing number of people living alone. He grows the raon variety, a cultivar that is one-fourth the size of an average bell pepper but sweeter. One billion won ($801,000) worth of the bell pepper was sold between January and the end of April this year, up 57.7 percent on year.
Korea had 6.64 million people living alone in 2020, according to Statistics Korea, up 8 percent on year. This largest portion made up for 31.7 percent of the total population, up 1.5 percentage points on year, followed by two-person households with 28 percent and three-person households with 20.1 percent.
Raon was first passed over by many due to its small size, but recently became popular among single-person households, which generally prefer smaller portion sizes that are convenient when preparing a meal for one.
“We have been getting a lot of online orders because the size of the bell pepper isn’t too big or too small and is easy to put into various dishes or even just eat by itself,” said Park.
The variety is also popular at discount stores. Emart buys almost half of Park's farm’s annual production of 150 tons and sells them at its branches. It sells the bell pepper in small portions of 200 grams (0.4 pounds) a pack, targeting single-person households.
“The raon bell pepper is small and sweet, developed to fit the needs of people living alone,” said Kim Gap-gon, a vegetable buyer at Emart.
Following the trend of the bell pepper, discount marts are selling other food products in small-sized packs. Emart sells 25 varieties of vegetables, such as onions, mushrooms and lettuce, into small 100- to 200-gram packs. Although the company didn’t disclose the annual sales figure for the products, it said sales last year grew over 30 percent on year.
“Onions and green onions in the mini packs are very popular among people living alone because it is difficult to store them in bulk in the refrigerator for a long time,” said a spokesperson for Emart.
Rice is also often sold in huge 20-kilogram (44-pound) sacks, but Lotte Mart now sells rice and other grains in small packs of 450 grams.
“Food manufacturers are offering products in small portions due to the rise of single-person households,” said Lee Gye-im, a researcher at Korea Rural Economic Institute. “The trend of downsizing package sizes and making things convenient to cook will soon become a norm in Korean society.”
Home appliances are also downsizing, as single-person households don’t need huge gadgets.
Cooking utilities maker Kitchen-Art sells the Rafale Mini Rice Cooker, advertising it to be ideal for people living alone as the cooker's max capacity is about two bowls.
Samsung Electronics started selling its mini fridge, the Bespoke Cube, last year. The refrigerator is only 44 centimeters (17 inches) tall, compared to the bigger four-door Bespoke refrigerator’s height of 1,853 centimeters.
BY LEE TAE-HEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]