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US Dairy Exporter Blog: Cheese a “Hot” Ingredient in South Korea

  • With young Koreans craving cheese, restaurants and food companies are serving up cheesier offerings, presenting a growing opportunity for U.S. dairy exporters.

    Go to a trendy restaurant in South Korea and you are likely to see a number of cheese-based dishes on the menu, such as Chijeu-Buldak (fire chicken with cheese) and Philly Steak N Cheese with Kimchi.


    Cheese back ribs have become a popular item in Korean restaurants. Upon ordering this dish, patrons dip sweet and spicy barbecue back ribs into mozzarella cheese.

    “Many Koreans do like their food spicy,” says Y.S. Lee, USDEC’s representative in South Korea. “The combination of hot spices and cheese enhances the flavor and brings about a unique taste.”

    In this video, Lee goes on to describes why “cheese has started to become a hot ingredient when it comes to recipes” Koreans love.


    The trend is driven by the young.

    “Compared to (their elders), the young generation has grown up with cheese as part of their diet and are very well familiar with cheese and do like the cheesy taste,” Lee says.

    Consequently, professional chefs in South Korea are increasingly incorporating cheese into their dishes.


    “Food companies realizing this trend are launching various ready-to-eat meals, incorporating cheese and one-serving cheese packages, whereas foodservice is constantly developing cuisine incorporating various cheeses,” Lee says.

    While overall dairy consumption in South Korea is stagnant because of the low birth rate, when it comes to cheese it is a whole different story, Lee said, adding that the growth in cheese consumption has been “just phenomenal.”

    Cheese consumption in South Korea grew 17.8 percent from 2011 to 2014, according to the latest Dairy: World Markets and Trade report from USDA.

    Meanwhile, the country imported 27.6 percent more cheese over that same four-year period.

    As more Koreans select dishes with cheese as an ingredient, it represents a significant opportunity for U.S. dairy exporters.

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