The South Korean health functional food market is steadily growing. In 2017, the total market size of the health functional food market exceeded three trillion South Korean won and increased by an average of 25 percent per year in the last five years. In the past, only vitamins were considered as health functional food. Recently however, new products with various ingredients and functions have been emerging.
While the main consumers of health functional food were middle-aged and older, the market is now expanding to young women in their 20s and 30s who are interested in beauty and wellness such as weight loss and skin improvement. Marketing methods of health functional food companies are becoming diversified through PR marketing using social media and influencers.
The largest health functional food company, Korea Ginseng Corporation (KGC), focuses on producing Korean Red Ginseng products. Its main brand is called Cheong-Kwan-Jang and it is known as the most preferred red ginseng brand in South Korea. KGC was the first health functional food company to generate one trillion South Korean won of sales revenue. The sales revenue of two KGC plants located in Buyeo and Wonju accounted for around 60 percent of the South Korean health functional food market alone.
South Koreans purchase health functional food once or twice and consume 10 to 15 thousand South Korean won worth of products annually. The most preferred product is red ginseng, but the most commonly taken products were vitamins, lacto/probiotics, and omega-3. South Koreans prefer to purchase health functional products via online shopping malls with the main platforms being 11st, Gmarket, and Coupang. Recently, the number of people who purchase the products directly from overseas has also increased because of cheaper prices and reliability.