Exploring South Korea’s Burgeoning Alternative Protein Scene
Exploring South Korea’s Burgeoning Alternative Protein Scene

South Korea is witnessing a remarkable shift towards alternative proteins, driven by growing consumer demand and robust government support. From the bustling streets of Seoul to the tranquil landscapes of Jeju Island, a wave of innovation is reshaping how South Koreans perceive and consume protein.

A willingness to try various alternative proteins

The appetite for change is palpable as 90% of South Koreans are willing to try cultivated meat, according to a report by the APAC Society for Cellular Agriculture (APAC-SCA). Overcoming the barriers of price and taste, 39% support the commercialization of cultivated meat in supermarkets and restaurants. The survey reflects a paradigm shift in consumer preferences, with 55% considering cultivated meat akin to plant-based alternatives.

Motivated by factors such as price, taste, health, and environmental concerns, South Koreans are poised to embrace the evolution of protein sources, marking a pivotal moment for the alternative protein industry.

Government initiatives and strategic support

South Korea’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs is propelling the plant-based industry forward with a National Plan to promote the industry.

Beyond the establishment of a dedicated research center for alternative proteins, the plan also aims to enhance export potential and incorporate locally sourced ingredients into plant-based alternatives. The Korea Institute of Rural Economics predicts substantial growth in the plant-based substitute market, projecting it to reach ₩280 billion ($207.4 million) by 2026.

South Korea’s commitment to shaping a sustainable and diverse food future is evident in its administrative support, exemplified by the selection of Intake, a startup specializing in plant-based pork belly for technology commercialization.

Hub of plant-based consumers

South Korea has become a thriving hub for plant-based consumers, with a substantial increase in the number of strict vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians over the past decade.

According to the Korean Vegetarian Union’s data from 2020, the country now boasts approximately half a million strict vegans, three times more than ten years ago. Additionally, 1.5 million Koreans have embraced plant-based or plant-forward diets, while around 20% of the population (approximately 10 million) identify as flexitarians. This demographic transformation positions South Korea as a dynamic center for the growing plant-based movement.


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