By Kwak Yeon-soo
The competition in the side dish market is getting fiercer among convenience stores as the market has been growing following the introduction of the 52-hour workweek last year, and the rise of single-person households.
An increasing number of Korean consumers are looking for diverse and healthy side dishes at affordable price.
"Following the improved work-life balance, there has been a huge increase in demand for side dishes," a BGF Retail official said. "We will develop and offer more product varieties that are healthier and tastier."
According to data compiled by CU, a convenience store chain run by BGF Retail, its side dish sales grew 72.3 percent in 2018 from the previous year. In the January-October period this year, its sales grew 40.1 percent from the same period a year ago.
CU attributed its rapid growth to its wide product variety, consisting of 120 side dish options including dried seaweed and kimchi.
The company released Kim Soo-mi packed side dish menus ― spicy pork ribs and braised spicy chicken ― on Friday.
"Whenever I don't have dinner appointments or feel like cooking for myself, I drop by a convenience store to buy Haetban cooked rice and a few side dishes on my way home from work," said Cho Ha-yeon, a 30-year-old office worker. "It feels much healthier than packed meals."
Likewise, Emart24 said its side dish category has been recording double-digit growth in recent years. Its side dish sales grew 15 percent in 2018 from the previous year.
"Kimchi is the most popular among side dishes, followed by soup products like samgyetang (ginseng chicken soup), seaweed soup, soy-braised beef and spicy seasoned dried squid," an Emart24 official said.
In August, the company launched ready-to-eat grilled fish to target single-person households.
According to Statistics Korea, about 29 percent of the country's population lives in single-person households, and the proportion is expected to grow to 36 percent by 2045.