Top 10 Innovative Korean Startups in the Food and Beverage Industry

The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.  Therefore it is crucial to create new and innovative ideas to transform the food and beverage industry.  There are some great Korean startups in the Food and Beverage industry.  Many were started by intelligent and motivated young entrepreneurs in Korea with great ideas and strong passion.  Since this market changes quickly, Korean startups in the food and beverage industry can adapt to customer needs much faster than big corporations.  Furthermore, with the rise of social media, it is easier than ever to get the attention of the average consumer, especially in Korea.

There is also a rise in support from Korean accelerators and incubators to help Korean startups in the food and beverage industry.  The most successful being a food delivery platform/app called Baedal Minjok which is operated by Woowa Brothers.  They have become the latest Korean startup “Unicorn” having a valuation of over $1 billion.

It is still very difficult to launch and grow a successful food or beverage business but the barriers have never been lower.  Therefore, which Korean startup has the potential to be the next Baedal Minjok?

Innovative Korean startups in the Food and Beverage Industry – Best of 2019

1. NowBusking – NowWaiting

Nowbusking Korean StartupKorean tech startup NowWaiting by NowBusking have focused on leveraging mobile technology for offline venues and bringing out unprecedented value.  They help restaurants streamline operations, increase sales and gain more business insight.

Their most representative service is NowWaiting which is a service for restaurants, banks, amusement parks, or anywhere where customers must wait in a line.  It’s a great service for restaurants because customers will just need to input their phone number on a tablet which will be placed at the front of the restaurant.  After that, they won’t need to wait in line and will be alerted once they are close to being seated.  Therefore, this allows customers to shop or do other activities.

They have over 7 million users at over 1,600 businesses.  Nowbusking has raised over $6 million in funding from Korean VC capital firms.  Their focus on 2019 will be to expand its business to a comprehensive restaurant management platform.

2. INTAKE

Korean startup in the Food Industry INTAKEKorean food manufacturing startup INTAKE focuses on healthy foods and meal replacements.  They have a line of healthy snacks, meals, and drinks. In addition, they also have the biggest food information portal in Korea called FoodB2B.  Furthermore, they sell their products at many convenience stores in Korea as well as e-commerce channels.  Their top 3 sellers are:

  • Morning Jook – porridge
  • Meals – multigrain shake
  • Dr. Nuts – mixed nuts snack.

They hope to reach over $15 million in sales in 2019.  In addition, INTAKE has gotten over $3 million in funding from its latest round.  For the rest of 2019, they will focus on new product development and growing distribution networks.

3. The PlantEat Inc.

Korean Food Startup PlantEatKorean Food tech Startup PlantEat researches and develops alternative food products.  They are the fastest-growing R&D focused food technology startup in Korea.  They focus on producing data-based plant materials.  Their brand Eat’s Better aims to solve the modern global malnutrition problem through its healthier, tastier, and sustainable plant-based products.  Furthermore, all their products are vegan certified by the UK vegetarian society.

PlantEat already created a pure vegetable mayonnaise made from Korean black beans and soy milk instead of eggs.  In addition, they got over $1.3 million in funding from Stone Bridge Ventures, Lotte Accelerator, and Future Play.  Their focus for 2019 will be on finding sustainable meat substitutes.  Recently they signed a business agreement with Korean Agriculture Tech Company EzFarm to develop technology for growing plant foods and natural ingredients that can replace meat.

4. Avokado Lab

Korean startup Avokado Lab specializes in robotic kitchen automation and AI technology to revolutionize the restaurant industry.  Their robotic system will offer customers higher quality food at an affordable price.  Currently, their focus is on restaurants, but they aim to innovate the whole end-to-end process from growing ingredients to user consumption. They were able to get seed investment from Springcamp, a venture capital subsidiary of Naver Corp. In addition, they were able to raise funding from FuturePlay.

5. Simple Project – WeCook

Korean Startups in the Food Industry

Korean shared kitchen startup Simple Project rents out space that is equipped with culinary equipment to restaurants and entrepreneurs.  The shared kitchen is called WeCook.  It is Korea’s first shared kitchen. It is are a great place for home meal replacement startups and food delivery startups in Korea.  In addition, it is great for R&D for major corporations like Lotte Hotel and Lotte Super.  Simple Project was a part of Lotte Accelerator and got funding of $1.3 million from them.  Furthermore, they plan to open 15 WeCook shared kitchens by the end of 2019.

6. The Satellite Brewing Company

Korean startups in the food IndustryKorean craft beer brewery startup The Satellite Brewing Company supplies craft beers for over 70 pubs and restaurants in Seoul.  Some of their most popular craft beers are the Denali Pale Ale (Citrus), Mangoya (Mango), and Would You IPA (Tropical fruit).  They also have a chocolate and coffee-flavored craft beer.  They are estimated to sell over $1 million by the end of 2019.  There are currently over 100 local craft breweries in Korea.  That number will grow as the Korean government lowers tax rates on domestic beer brands.  Their plans for 2019 will be to find new investors and grow their facilities.

7. ALIENROBOT

Korean Startup Alien RobotALIENROBOT are the creators of Cafeman which is an automated a fully functional barista robot/bar. This robotic barista can serve over 100 cups of coffee in an hour which is about the same volume as three baristas. Therefore, ALIENROBOT will go a long way for customer satisfaction as they will cut down on lines, counter confusion, and order mistakes. Their menu has the typical selections you’d expect to see at any coffee shop. In addition, ALIENROBOT uses top-quality ingredients with a focus on efficiency.

8. Plating

Korean Startup PlatingKorean startup Plating offers a variety of services from pre-made premium lunch boxes for companies and a customized catering service.  The meals are made by skilled chefs with a focus on healthy eating.  Plating is great for companies in Korea that want to save time during lunch hours.  On average, companies save 35 minutes a day for lunch breaks.  In addition, companies can keep track of their orders through Plating’s Plating Manager Page.  Furthermore, for those that get the premium service, Plating offers “special day” meals for Chuzeok, company anniversaries, and etc.  Make sure to take advantage of Plating’s Diet Curator which will provide optimized solutions based on customer’s needs and tendencies.  Customers will be able to choose between a weekly or monthly plan.  Their focus for 2019 will be on menu development, ingredients sourcing, cooking, and delivery for the perfect customer experience.

9. Freshcode

Korean Startups in the Food Industry FreshcodeKorean food delivery startup Freshcode delivers salad to customers in Seoul through its innovative shared delivery system.  They deliver to spots where there are a certain number of customers who have all ordered salads.  Furthermore, Freshcode has its own kitchen where they make the salads.  They produce around 2,000 salads a day.  Then they are delivered to over 300 Freshcode spots where they are picked up by customers.  In addition, orders placed before 9:30 am can be picked up that same day for lunch.  Currently, over 70% of their customers are female.  Their focus on 2019 will be to expand outside of Seoul to cities like Busan.

10. ALTDIF

Korean startup ALTDIFKorean Tea & Lifestyle brand ALTDIF offers a wide selection of blending teas as well as tea perfume. Some of their teas include Bang Show, Royal Milk tea, Cup Milk Tea, and Chocolate Squeezer. Their site offers a wide range of recipes to create very creative tea drinks. Check out their location and reserve a lesson on teas at the ALTDIF Tea Bar. There can only be a maximum of 7 people at the same time. In addition, the course comes with simple tea food and varies from 10,000 won to 20,000 won depending on the drinks and alcohol. Seoulz recommends the Season 5 course, which changes depending on the season.

HONORABLE MENTION

Brewguru

Korean Beverage Startup BrewguruBrewguru is a Kombucha brand that is looking to bring the Kombucha craze to Korea. The last decade has made kombucha an influential player in the global beverage economy, however, it has not yet made an impact in Korea. Furthermore, the global market size is expected to hit $6 billion by 2026 according to a report by Acumen Research and Consulting. Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that is made by adding yeast and a culture of bacteria to a mixture of black or green tea. Sugar is added along with different kinds of flavors. Brewguru offers original, lemon, and Omija just to name a few. Koreans can now go online and have Kombucha delivered to their homes.

WE HUDDLING

Social Impact Startup in Korea WE HUDDLINGKorean startup WE HUDDLING removes the physical, social, and psychological hurdles of healthy eating habits that are difficult for people to practice consciously in their daily lives, learns eating habits that are right for them, and designs and provides food experiences to sustain behavioral change.  In addition, they offer WE EAT, a service where employees who are interested in healthy eating can get their breakfast at their company every morning which suits their individual taste.