Soju, the dominant category in South Korean spirits, recorded low volume declines in 2021, with greater at-home consumption during the pandemic, especially among single-person households, negatively its performance. South Koreans tend to choose lower-alcohol drinks rather than strong spirits when they drink alone to avoid overconsumption.
Despite improving demand in 2021, whiskies experienced notable volume declines for much of the review period as increasing numbers of local consumers switched to other alcoholic drinks. Two main products dominate volume sales - other blended Scotch whisky and other whiskies – with the latter recording further declines through off-trade in 2021, after a huge drop in sales 2020, leading to concerns among players in the category.
Despite a low drop in demand in 2021, off-trade volume sales of soju remained significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels, encouraging soju players to actively develop at-home consumption offers. This has led to packaging innovation for off-trade soju.
The South Korean government plans to introduce mandatory calorie labelling for alcoholic drinks. According to the Fair Trade Commission of South Korea, with the revision of the Act on Fair Labelling and Advertising, alcoholic drinks are expected to have mandatory labelling of calories and nutritional information, while the date is not yet fixed.
An expected price hike for soju could be another challenge for soju over the forecast period. Category leader Hite Jinro announced a price increase in 2022, which will be soon followed by other manufacturers.
The accelerated growth experienced by e-commerce since the emergence of the pandemic can potentially support further sales of spirits. With a revision of regulations, The National Tax Service now permits stores to sell alcoholic drinks online.
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This is the aggregation of whisk(e)y, brandy and Cognac, white spirits, rum, tequila, liqueurs and other spirits.See All of Our Definitions
This report originates from Passport, our Spirits research and analysis database.
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