They’ve embraced Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai and - more recently - Vietnamese food, but can UK consumers fall in love with Korean cuisine? Dah Suh firmly believes so. The MD of importer Korean Foods is on a mission to persuade the British public and retail buyers that Korean food deserves wider recognition.
He’s already made inroads into the mults with Shin Cup noodles - the spicy Korean cousin of the Pot Noodle - now listed in Morrisons, Asda and Tesco.
And the time is right to push a wider range of Korean foods into the British mainstream, Suh believes. “We’re talking to buyers and are trying to get them to see Korean as part of the next wave of Asian foods to make it big in the UK - the new flavours of Asia,” he says.
Convenience products such as instant noodles were the first step in getting Korean products into supermarkets the next step are easy-to-use ingredients such as readymade bulgogi marinade and spicy gochujang paste, which can be used in a range of dishes and aren’t exclusively tied to Korean cuisines. “Ultimately, we would like to see a range of Korean ready meals, but I don’t think the market is there quite yet,” says Suh. “Buyers are very risk-averse, so it will take some time.”
Suh hopes retail buyers will be persuaded to be bolder in their support as Korean food becomes an increasingly important foodie trend and gets more mainstream media coverage. To help things along, Korean Foods is planning a major presence at this year’s Taste of London exhibition and has developed close ties with celebrity chef and self-confessed Korea fan Gizzi Erskine (above), who ran a Korean-themed pop-up in London last year.
It is also looking to boost availability of key Korean ingredients by launching a new online store under the Seoul Plaza name later this year, as well as an online information portal for all things Korean food in the UK.
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