New data: South Korea’s health functional food production value up nearly 20% last year

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

The flag of South Korea. © Getty Images
The flag of South Korea. © Getty Images

Related tags health functional foods MFDS

South Korea’s Health Functional Food (HFF) production value was up nearly 20 per cent in year 2021, latest data from the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) showed.

Total production of HFF hit KRW$2.712 tr (US$2.08bn) last year, up 19.8 per cent from KRW$2.26 tr (US$1.74bn) in 2020.

This was due to increased health awareness driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, said the MFDS.

In the years prior to COVID-19, HFF production percentage growth was 16.3 per cent between 2019 and 2020 and 12.6 per cent between 2018 and 2019, according to the report.

Continuing the trend from previous years, red ginseng took the top spot in terms of the production value, comprising 22.7 per cent of all of the HFF produced last year.

Red ginseng is said to be popular for its benefits to the immune system in the country, said the report.

This is followed by probiotics (14.7 per cent), vitamins and minerals (10.6 per cent), EPA and DHA (7.2 per cent), and hemohim angelica extract (5.1 per cent) – a product by MLM firm Atomy​ – which made up the rest of the top five chart.

These five raw materials made up 60.2 per cent of the total production value of HFF in South Korea, equivalent to KRW$1.63tr (US$1.25bn). This was up from KRW$1.42tr (US$1.09bn) in year 2020.

Out of the top five ingredients, EPA, DHA, and probiotics were the categories that have reported the highest growth rates.

Production value of EPA and DHA was up 77.3 per cent to KRW$195.5bn followed by probiotics, which went up by 25.6 per cent to KRW$3.979bn.  

The percentage growth in the production value of vitamins and minerals was up six per cent to KR$286.5bn, and that of red ginseng was up 2.8 per cent to KRW$615.3bn.

Overall, HFF comprises 2.9 per cent of all food production in South Korea last year.

Joint health’s exponential growth

On the other hand, there was a rise in production value of raw materials for joint health.

One notable example is the Boswellia extract. Unlike the aforementioned raw materials, this is an individually recognised raw material which could claim to support joint and cartilage health. This means that the business operator has to submit an application to the MFDS on the raw material’s safety and functionality etc to seek the MFDS’ approval before it could be used in HFF.

Production value of the Boswellia extract was up 2,991.2 per cent to KRW$24.4bn, signifying an increased interest in joint health, said the MFDS in the report.

MSM, the other joint health related raw material, also reported a growth of 107.5 per cent to KRW$59.9bn

Top 10 companies

The popularity of red ginseng is largely enjoyed by Korea Ginseng Corporation, which was also the number one in terms of companies manufacturing HFF last year.

ODM firm Kolmar B&H took the second place, followed by Suheung – a firm specialising in capsule manufacturing, hy Co. – formerly known as Korea Yakult, and Chong Kun Dang – which is famous for its probiotics brand Lacto-Fit.

The following is a list of the top 10 companies in terms of HFF production volume / amount in 2021:

  1. Korea Ginseng Corporation
  2. Kolmar B&H
  3. Suheung
  4. hy Co.
  5. Chong Kun Dang
  6. Cosmax NBT
  7. Amorepacific
  8. Korea Eundan 
  9. Hanmi Natural Nutrition 
  10. Mediogen

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