In South Korea, food and dietary supplement regulations are governed by the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) and are also referred to as health/functional foods (HFF).

Health and Functional foods (HFFs) have become more popular in recent years due to increasing consumer awareness about their health thanks to various social media platforms and internet resources. The Korea Health Supplements Association projects that by 2030, the market for health supplements will be valued at more than 25 trillion won ($19 billion).

In 2012, South Korea's Ministry of Food and Drug Safety reported that there were 12,495 distinct kinds of dietary supplements on the market; by 2019, that number had increased to 26,342. Red ginseng and probiotics were the top two (02) most popular health supplements in South Korea. As more young people grew interested in taking care of their health, sales of other supplements, including collagen, hyaluronic acid, and multivitamins, increased significantly. In South Korea, households spent an average of $259.5 on dietary supplements in 2021, which means 84.5% of South Koreans use nutritional supplements.

South Korean youth tend to spend more money on expensive health supplements due to their high level of disposable income. By 2023, it is expected to have doubled the current sales of health supplements. Currently, probiotics and fortified foods with vitamins and minerals are two (02) functional foods that are in high demand in South Korea. The popularity of plant-based protein supplements, herbal cures, and other natural health goods has also increased with the trend toward a plant-based diet.

The Korean Health/Functional Food Act, a new Regulatory framework for ensuring the safety, effectiveness, and labeling of Health/Functional foods (HFFs), went into effect in January 2004. According to the Act, HFFs must be sold in measured doses like pills, tablets, capsules, and liquids. The South Korean government's body in charge of policing the sale of food, drugs, medical equipment, and cosmetics is the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS), formerly the Korea Food & Drug Administration (KFDA).

Considering the rising demand in the markets for these types of products coming from other countries, the MFDS released an exposure draft of the Registration and Management Standard of Good Importer and Good Foreign Food Facility for public opinion on August 25, 2020. The purpose of this draft is to streamline the on-site inspection rules.

Challenges for Health Supplements in the South Korean Market

1. False Claims

The benefits of supplements purchased over the counter include their affordability, accessibility, and lack of need for a prescription. However, many manufacturers use false marketing and customer testimonials to promote the use of their products by claiming benefits such as a significant decrease in fat, weight loss, or tall height. Due to this problem, customers have doubts about the company’s credibility, which prevents the market from expanding.

2. Strict Certification Standards and a Preference for Goods Manufactured Locally

The Korean Food Code classifies twenty-five (25) different substances, including fish oils, calcium, aloe vera, and more, as dietary supplements. However, quite a few products are illegal to sell in accordance with various laws.

Furthermore, it is challenging for foreign business operators to obtain government approval and compete with local producers due to the strict regulations and preference of South Korean consumers for domestically produced goods.

Consult Freyr to stay up to date with South Korean regulations and launch your product in the South Korean market.


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