S. Korea's Health Food Market: Giants Diversify amid Regulatory Controversy | Be Korea-savvy

S. Korea’s Health Food Market: Giants Diversify amid Regulatory Controversy

This photo provided by Binggrae Co.shows the food maker's collagen products.

This photo provided by Binggrae Co.shows the food maker’s collagen products.

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Korea Bizwire)Not only is the domestic food and retail industry venturing into the production and sale of health functional foods, but the cosmetics sector is also making strides in this field.

As the market expands, companies are placing significant emphasis on setting themselves apart to gain a competitive edge.

Binggrae Co., a renowned ice cream company, recently made headlines by announcing its foray into the nutraceutical market.

This strategic move is seen as an effort to overcome certain growth limitations in its existing business domains.

Nongshim Co., a food and beverage company, and Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co., a beverage company, have similarly ventured into the nutraceutical market.

AmorePacific Corp., a leading cosmetics manufacturer, has asserted that entering the functional food market aligns perfectly with the human desire for a beautiful and healthy lifestyle, reflecting the pursuit of overall well-being.

E-Mart Inc., a prominent discount store chain, has even developed its own line of nutraceutical products, signaling a strong interest in creating cost-effective offerings.

As the market for dietary supplements continues to expand, a contentious debate has emerged regarding the possibility of allowing their sale in secondary markets.

This controversy has arisen due to government discussions about permitting individuals to trade functional foods, typically available only at registered food stores for safety reasons, through online secondary market platforms like the widely popular “Carrot Market”.

Under the current Health Functional Food Act, health functional foods can only be sold through storefronts, following specific training, and notification to local authorities, with resale prohibited.

Supporters of maintaining these regulations argue that they are essential for establishing a structured distribution system, ensuring proper consumption of functional foods, preventing safety and efficacy issues due to improper storage, and curbing false or exaggerated advertising.

This file photo shows health functional foods on display at a large discount market in Seoul. (Yonhap)

This file photo shows health functional foods on display at a large discount market in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Concerns also revolve around the potential proliferation of sales activities disguised as person-to-person transactions, possibly leading to unfair advantages for businesses that have legitimately registered their sales operations.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, the primary overseeing body, also stands in favor of retaining the existing regulations.

Conversely, proponents of deregulation contend that the increasing presence of online platforms warrants person-to-person transactions for the benefit of consumers.

They argue that the sales business notification system is primarily designed for managing regular distributors of health functional foods, and therefore may not be applicable to person-to-person transactions.

They also point out that online sales and person-to-person gifting practices have already become commonplace.

Meanwhile, the demand for health functional foods is on the rise, attracting numerous companies to the market.

Projections estimate that South Korea’s functional food market, valued at 4.8 trillion won (US$3.63 billion) in 2019, will reach 6.4 trillion won this year, according to the Korea Health Functional Food Association.

Ashley Song (ashley@koreabizwire.com)

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