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Korea's ramen exports hit record high amid K-ramen boom

July 4, 2023 - 14:48 By Lee Yoon-seo
Nongshim's Shin Ramyun (Nongshim)

South Korea posted its highest-ever semi-annual ramen exports figure amid the increased global demand for Korean instant noodle products, data found Tuesday.

According to the data from the Korea Agro-Fisheries and Food Trade Corporation, a quasi-government agency, Korean ramen exports were tentatively tallied at $446.2 million, as of June.

The number recorded a 16.4 percent jump from the previous record high of $383.2 million, logged in the first half of 2022.

Korea's semi-annual ramen exports have been consecutively breaking records since 2015.

The nation's semi-annual exports of ramen posted $103 million in 2015, $122 million in 2016, $174 million in 2017, $216 million in 2018 and $219 million in 2019.

The growth rate of the nation's ramen exports gained traction particularly in 2020, when data showed that the country saw a 37.3 percent jump in its semi-annual exports of ramen, reaching $302 million.

The boom in international demand for Korean ramen comes as the popularity of K-content such as K-pop, Korean dramas and movies gained traction, along with the general increase in the popularity of instant noodles, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riding the trend of the increasing popularity of Korean ramen, the nation's top ramen firms have been seeing global sales soar.

Nongshim, the nation's No. 1 ramen seller in terms of annual sales, said it saw more than half of its operating profit come from its US subsidiary during the first quarter.

According to the company, its US subsidiary recently saw a 604.7 percent jump in its operating profit compared to last year in the January to March period, by posting some 18 billion won ($13 million) in operating profit.

Samyang Foods, another leading ramen seller here, said it saw its exports rise by 56 percent to 605 billion won last year.

The firm's global sales, which made up 7.1 percent of the company's total sales as of 2011, also soared to take up some 66.6 percent of the firm's total sales, as of this year.

"Following the bolstered demand for K-ramen in the overseas market and the saturated market for ramen here, Korean ramen companies are unanimously looking to expand their businesses in overseas markets," said an official from a local ramen manufacturing company.

"Like Nongshim, which is thinking of setting up another production facility in the US, Korean ramen firms are going all out to propel their global ramen businesses, by securing overseas production facilities and supply systems," he said.