Country To Watch: 5 Signs South Korea’s Alternative Protein Industry Is On Fire

4 Mins Read

A number of recent developments have propelled South Korea onto the global alt protein stage. Both food tech and manufacturing sectors have announced victories and new launches including some major wins on the cultivated meat and seafood front. Now, we’re calling out the country as an innovation hub to watch in 2022.

The Korea International Trade Association predicts that plant-based meat will be more in demand than animal meat by 2040, a fairly significant trend in a country hungry for meat. According to Statista, the average South Korean consumes 126.2 grams daily, and pork is their preferred animal. Food tech companies are scrambling to develop alternatives to conventional products. This has resulted in a number of significant breakthroughs that will influence the worldwide alt protein industry. 

5 significant South Korean industry successes include:

Image courtesy of Yangyoo.

1. Yangyoo exhibiting plant-based cheese at CES 2022

Through its subsidiary brand, Armoured Fresh, Seoul-based Yangyoo will bring its plant-based cheese to the The products are being debuted at the CES 2022 in Las Vegas this month. The company has confirmed four initial styles of cheese will be released, with multiple flavour profiles. This will, hopefully, lead to yoghurt and ice cream lines being developed in the future. Commercial launch channels and dates are yet to be confirmed.

Image courtesy of Pulmuone.

2. Big brand names embracing vegan meat alternatives

Last December, it was announced that CJ CheilJedang, licensee of Hormel’s products in South Korea, had created a new vegan brand. PlanTable will feature a range of products underpinned by soybean-based meat. Plans to bring the range to the U.S. and Europe have been floated for 2022. The news came after domestic tofu innovator Pulmuone revealed a new line of soy-based meat products. Up to 20 products will be released, each designed to easily replace conventional meat, especially pork.

Image courtesy of CellMEAT.

3. Unveiling of the world’s first cultivated Dokdo shrimp 

CellMEAT Caused a stir last December. The South Korean food tech released images of the first-ever cultivated Dokdo shrimp. It revealed that different shapes and sizes had been successfully created, for use in various cooking applications. The shrimp were created using a proprietary Fetal Bovine Serum-free growth medium (see below). Tasters acknowledged a far better flavour and texture than expected. Predictions of commercial rollout within two years were floated, pending regulatory approval.

Image courtesy of CellMEAT.

4. Development of FBS-free culture media ahead of the U.S.

CellMEAT declared the development of an FBS-free culture medium in early December 2021. The breakthrough came after a successful pre-Series A funding round that raised $4.5 million. Investment was used to drive down costs associated with cultivated meat production, which led to an FBS-free medium. Animal-based serums are considered prohibitively priced, leading many companies to try synthesising a plant-based alternative. CellMEAT acknowledged that the discovery allows for 100 percent ethical cultivated meat to enter the market. 

U.S.-based Upside Foods announced a similar breakthrough a day later, while claiming to be the first.

South Korea protein maufacturer Unlimeat
Image courtesy of Unlimeat.

5. Dramatic upscaling of plant-based meat facilities

Zikooin, owner of South Korea’s biggest vegan beef manufacturer Unlimeat, revealed plans to build a new production plant. The facility will be one of the biggest plant-based manufacturing facilities across Asia. The news was reported in November 2021 and follows a successful $23 million funding round designed to cover construction costs. The new “clean meat factory” is slated for operation from mid-2022. Increased production capabilities are being cited as the basis for increased export and bigger global alternative protein market share for South Korea.

Ending 2021 on a high note, South Korea has set itself a high mantle for 2022.

Lead image courtesy of Unsplash.


  • Amy Buxton

    A long-term committed ethical vegan and formerly Green Queen's resident plant-based reporter, Amy juggles raising a family and maintaining her editorial career, while also campaigning for increased mental health awareness in the professional world. Known for her love of searing honesty, in addition to recipe developing, animal welfare and (often lacklustre) attempts at handicrafts, she’s hands-on and guided by her veganism in all aspects of life. She’s also extremely proud to be raising a next-generation vegan baby.

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