Just three minutes, and your meal is ready! Cup noodles were Korea’s staple instant food. But lately, instant foods are becoming more diversified.
They've expanded to include just about anything, from triangular gimbap, sandwiches, and Korean ready-to-eat meals, to salads, spaghetti, and even stew! They span multiple cuisines.
We're at a convenient store located in Jung-gu, Seoul. Most of their profits come from the sales of instant foods.
Everyday, office workers flock to this place to pick out their lunch. But they must decide from a wide range of options.
What are their favorite choices
[Interview : Jo Yun-jeong, Deputy of PR
7-Eleven] "Triangular gimbap are the most popular. Cup noodles, which only require hot water, are also one of the best sellers. Ready-to-eat meals are also a favorite because they are a convenient alternative to regular meals."
Triangular gimbap placed first, followed by Korean read-to-eat meals and cup noodles on second and third places, respectively.
They can't get any simpler, as they only require three minutes in the microwave or in hot water. Their sales are on a steady rise, boosted by their great taste.
[Interview : Jo Yun-jeong, Deputy of PR
7-Eleven] "The sales of triangular gimbap increased by 30%, compared to last year. Ready-to-eat meals' spiked by 120%. I think their sales grew significantly because they're offered at convenient stores, which are common and offer a lot of inexpensive options."
Instant foods are now indispensable to convenient stores. They are popular for many reasons.
[Interview : Jang Seong-hui, Customer] "Instant foods in convenient stores are inexpensive and are becoming more diverse. They also taste good like food you'd have at a regular restaurant. That's why I come here often."
They're quick and easy, saving time.
But a growing number of smaller households also justifies their rising popularity.
In 2010, there were 4,049,000 one-member households in Korea, which constitute 23% of the whole. As smaller households become more common, so do people who prefer instant foods over regular meals, which take more time to prepare.
Jeon Yun-jeong[전윤정] is a 23-year-old office worker. She lives by herself, but she rarely uses her kitchen or cooking utensils. Instead, she lives on all sorts of instant foods.
"This is instant rice. They only had white rice before, but they expanded their selection to include black soybean rice. This is soft tofu stew. But just like cup noodles, you only need hot water to make it. They even sell things like bossam , which you can microwave when you're looking for late-night snacks."
[Interview : PD] "What's this[Interview : ] "It's a field ration that soldiers take to battlefields. I bought it because I thought it would be useful when I spontaneously plan a trip with my friends or for myself."
The instant food advocate decides to show off her skills. How long does it take to prepare a meal
[Interview : ] "They're ready!"
It only took 5 minutes and 41 seconds to prepare five different kinds of food! Today, she's having cream spaghetti, black soybean rice, and beef bone broth.
Especially notable is the beef bone broth, which normally takes hours to cook. But it only took 5 minutes for this instant version.
Thanks to instant foods, Jeon Yun-jeong can enjoy an array of delicious dishes, on a daily basis.
[Interview : Jeon Yun-jeong, Office worker] "I am doing a lot these days, so I don't have a lot of free time. Instant foods are great this way because they can be made quickly compared to regular meals. They also save time and don't require dish-washing."
[Interview : PD] "What would you do without instant foods[Interview : Jeon Yun-jeong, Office worker] "You mean without instant foods[Interview : Kim So-hyeon, 17-year-old Seoul resident] "I eat them five or six times a week."
[Interview : Kim Yu-geon, 22-year-old Seoul resident] "I don't really eat them on school breaks. But I eat them at least once a day during the semesters."
[Interview : Lee Sang-rae, 33-year-old Seoul resident] "Between one and three times a week[Interview : Kim Jeong-ja, 45-year-old Seoul resident] "I don't eat them a lot. Maybe once or twice when I feel like it."
Among people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, those in their 20s were found to consume more instant foods on a regular basis.
Food manufactures have adjusted their strategies accordingly, and are developing more instant food choices.
This company is one of the top food manufacturers in Korea. They were the first to introduce instant rice, and now they're coming up with over 10 different kinds of instant foods each year.
Recently, they've released instant nurungji, or scorched rice soup, instant pasta, and instant stew and porridge.
[Interview : Kim Yong-ryeol, Deputy of Media Marketing
CJ CheilJedang] "As households with one or two members, stay-at-homes, and single people, increase, more people are having difficulty preparing their own meals, and they're looking for pre-made instant foods. Accordingly, food manufacturers are developing and producing foods that will suit this trend."
Korea's instant foods offer great taste and variety. They are now evolving to include even more options to match individual preferences. We look forward to seeing more of their countless possibilities.
What I like about these foods is that if you buy them in a convenience store, you can just stand at the counter inside and eat it.
In other countries you have to stand outside the corner looking very sad while eating.
Even if you're cooking at home, these dishes come in handy.
Sometimes when I can't cook everything for a dinner party, I'll use some instant food to plump up my menu.
Dinner parties Sometimes.
And other times it's more like a party.
Sounds like fun!
Well stay with us. We'll be right back.