South Korea functional foods growth: Probiotics booming but ginseng still tops chart – new data

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

There was a drop in production of red ginseng in South Korea last year. ©Getty Images
There was a drop in production of red ginseng in South Korea last year. ©Getty Images

Related tags South korea Ginseng Probiotics

Probiotics and ginseng are two key categories driving functional food growth in South Korea last year, according to a new government report.

The report,​ published by South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS), analysed the food production performance for last year.

The sectors analysed included food, livestock, containers and packaging, and health functional foods.

As a whole, the food production industry was worth KRW$817tr (US$682bn) last year – up 2.7% from year 2018. The average growth for the past three years was 3.9%. 

In particular, the fastest growth was coming from the health functional food category, which was worth KRW$19.4tr (US$16.3bn). This was 12.6% higher than year 2018 and the average growth for the past three years was 14.6%.

According to the report, the largest manufacturer of health functional foods is Korea Ginseng Corporation. It has manufactured KRW$3.49tr (US$2.94) worth of products and has contributed 18% to the entire market.

Kolmar, Novarex, and CKD Health were the next biggest manufacturers, with a market share of 18%, 10.7%, 6.4%, and 4.6%.

Product categories wise, probiotics and ginseng are some of the most manufactured health foods.


Last year, probiotics production was worth KRW$277.5bn (US$234m) – an increase of 45.2% from 2018.

The ministry believes that this is due to greater consumers’ interest in intestinal health as a result of adopting western diets. Hence, they are interested in products that can increase the number of beneficial bacteria in the gut and facilitate smooth bowel movements.

Some of the major producers of probiotics in South Korea are CKD Bio with its brand Lacto-fit and Cell Biotech’s Duolac.

For CKD Bio, probiotics made up 7% of its entire sales last year.

Having started operations in a new factory in Ansan, southwest of Seoul, since April this year, it will be manufacturing an addition of 108 tons of raw probiotics.

It also began constructing another factory in Dangjin, Chungcheongnam-do in May to ramp up its production of health functional foods, including probiotics. The factory is expected to be completed two years later.

Red ginseng

Red ginseng, on the other hand, saw a drop in its production volume last year.

The market is now worth KRW$5.88tr (US$4.9bn), a 13.1% drop from 2018. Still, it is the biggest health functional foods category in the country, occupying 29.4% of the entire health functional food segment when it comes to market value. 

Functional foods raw materials and probiotics were the other two largest categories, contributing 18.6% and 13.8% to the health functional food market share.  

Vitamins and minerals, and EPA, DHA followed behind, and made up 11.7% and 3.9% of the market share. 

While health functional foods took the top spot in terms of growth rate, general food production took the second place.

The sector was worth KRW$476tr (US$401bn), which was a 5.1% increase from 2018. It grew at an average rate of 5.5% in the past three years.

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