There is a growing demand for premium Scotch whisky in South Korea
The demand for premium Scotch whisky in South Korea is being fueled by a growing young, middle-class population.
According to Emily Roads, the head of trade (Asia Pacific) at the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), although there has been a significant decline in Scotch exports to South Korea over the past decade, there is an increasing demand for high-quality, premium Scotch whisky. SWA data reveals that in 2021, South Korea accounted for £63.8 million (US$79.7 million) or 8.4 million bottles in direct exports.
However, in 2022, these numbers rose to £124.5 million (US$155.5 million) or 14.1 million bottles, positioning South Korea as the 17th most valuable market for Scotch exports globally and the seventh largest in the Asia Pacific region in terms of value. It should be noted that these figures are still significantly lower than the peak reached in 2009.
Scotch Whisky in South Korea: premium market taking over
Emily Roads emphasized that South Korea is becoming an increasingly premium market, with a notable surge in demand for single malts, which accounted for around a third of exports in 2022, compared to a 3% market share in 2012 and 13% in 2019.
This premiumization of the market has helped maintain South Korea’s importance as an export destination for Scotch whisky despite the decline in exports over the past decade. This trend is also observed in the wider Asia Pacific region, which surpassed the EU last year to become the highest value-export market for Scotch. In 2022, the region was valued at £1,818 million (US$2,271) (29% of global exports) and ranked as the second largest by volume, totaling an equivalent of 479 million bottles (29% of global exports).
Additionally, Emily Roads highlighted significant growth opportunities in the region, particularly in markets like Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, where there are strong indications of expansion. The rising young middle-class population in these countries is expected to drive greater interest in high-quality, premium products such as Scotch whisky.
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