Convenience store sales increase amid health functional food boom

  • Mar 10, 2022
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A 41-year-old office worker often stops by a convenience store to get red ginseng extract packaged in a sachet. He said they are useful when he has a bad hangover or feels very tired in the morning. 

“Taking health supplements regularly is too cumbersome, so I instead purchase red ginseng extract packaged in a sachet whenever I stop by at a convenience store,” the man said. “I feel like I’m becoming healthier with just small amount of money that cost the same as a cup of coffee.” 

With the health supplement market booming in Korea, convenience stores are enjoying a sales jump of sachet health supplements, such as red ginseng, probiotics and vitamin. Convenience stores display the products right next to cashiers in an effort to generate sales.

“These days, we display sachets of health supplements near the cashiers instead of gum or candy,” said a spokesperson for convenience store chain CU.

CU currently sells some 20 different types of health supplements packaged in sachets, also known as stick pouches, including collagen and vitamins, and their sales in February jumped 68 percent compared to same month a year earlier. 

Many local pharmaceutical companies, including Chong Kun Dang Pharmaceutical and Yuhan, are scrambling to introduce stick pouch products to capture convenience store sales. 

Korea Ginseng, which makes Cheong Kwan Jang red ginseng, in 2018 released convenience store-only product Red Ginseng Extract Everytime Balance Fit in a stick pouch. Some 1.5 million products were sold last year, up 20 percent compared to a year earlier.

This comes six years after the company introduced its first stick pouch-style red ginseng product Korean Red Ginseng Extract Everytime in 2012. The product went vial since it appeared in many popular Korean dramas and TV programs. The cumulative sale of the product was some 3 million in 2013, but rose to 110 million in 2017 and reached some 200 million as of 2019.  

 Red ginseng extract packaged in a stick pouch is also popular overseas.  

 According to Korea Ginseng, more than half of its exports to China and United States are products packed in stick pouches. 

 “As customers can purchase those stick pouches by a stick, it's cheaper,” said a spokesperson for Korea Ginseng. “Many people in their 20s and 30s like it due to its convenience of portability and consumption.”  

As the number of single-person households has been increasing constantly, food companies are scrambling to release products that are packaged in stick pouches. 

Late last year, Ottogi launched “I’m Stick Jam” to offer people one-time use jam. Currently, two flavors are available: Strawberry and apple.  

Samyang Foods in December introduced a stick pouch version of its popular spicy sauce used in making Buldak Bokkeummyeon.

The origin of stick pouch-style food in Korea is Maxim coffee mix, which was introduced by Dongsuh Foods in 1987.  

“About 13 billion stick coffee products were sold last year,” said a spokesperson for Dongsuh Foods. “We’re always trying our best to come up with safer and more convenience stick products.”