Palm oil
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — Palm oil has become the most popular edible oil in South Korea, according to a Feb. 7 Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report from the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The report said that while soybean oil and corn oil was used predominantly in South Korea during the 1970s and 1980s, the industry has shifted to meet the changing demands of the country’s cosmetic, food and biofuel industries.

Of the edible oils consumed by South Korea in 2015-16, palm oil led the way at 37%, followed by soybean oil (35%), rapeseed oil (9%) and an assortment of other oils combining to make up 20% of the market.

Palm oil is the cheapest available edible oil, the report said.

It said industry experts estimated that in 2016 55% of palm oil was used for biofuels, and about half of the total food industry usage of palm oil was for instant noodle production.

The GAIN report said total edible oil use for human consumption in South Korea was estimated to have stayed steady in 2016-17 while biofuel consumption is expected to increase.

The report indicated that three trends should continue to affect South Korean edible oil consumption: 1) more affluent consumers are increasingly influenced by health trends and willing to pay a premium for specialty oils 2) they are spending more on the convenience of dining out or purchasing pre-made meals despite these meals having higher oil content and saturated fats than homemade meals 3) biofuel mandates increased from 2.5% in 2016 to 3% in 2018, which should cause total biofuel consumption to rise, particularly in the case of palm oil.