If you have been to South Korea’s large supermarkets, you might probably be amazed at the great variety of snacks on sale. In this blog post, I will talk about four Koreans’ favourite snacks which have interesting stories behind them, namely, honey butter chips, choco pies, pepero and saewookkang.
Honey Butter Chips (허니버터칩)
Honey butter chips made by the Haitai-Calbee joint venture have become very popular in South Korea recently. According to the producer, this product is made of potato chips featuring the taste of French butter and acacia honey. It combines the sweet, salty and buttery tastes into one. Through word-of-mouth on the social media, this product sold like hot cakes in South Korea. Within 100 days since its debut in August 2014, its sales reached US$9 million. This product was said to be sold out within 30 minutes after they were out in the supermarkets and convenience stores. Owing to the shortage of supply, a bag of chips with original price of 2,400 won could worth almost double the original price at online auctions.
Choco Pies (초코파이)
Choco pies are two small round sponge-cake-like layers separated by marshmallow and coated with chocolate. In South Korea, the more well-known brands are Orion Choco Pies and Lotte Choco Pies. Choco pies were first produced by Orion in 1974 and Lotte produced its brand of choco pies in 1978. In 1999, Orion filed a lawsuit against Lotte for infringement of its trademark “Choco Pie” but lost its case since the court considered “Choco Pie” a common noun which might be used by anyone.
Choco pies appeal to not only South Koreans but also North Koreans. In the Gaesong Industrial Complex (a joint venture between South Korea and North Korea located in North Korea), part of the North Korean factory workers’ compensation is paid by choco pies. As North Koreans like choco pies, the factory workers can resell the choco pies at a price which can be 4 to 5 times the original price in the black markets in North Korea.
Pepero is a snack made of thin biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate. It is a famous snack in South Korea because 11 November is designated as “Pepero Day” on which people exchange pepero as gifts with their lovers and friends. The origin of “Pepero Day” is unknown – some said that it might be due to the fact that the biscuit sticks look like the four “1”s of the date (i.e. 11/11) and others said that it might come from the superstition that eating Pepero could make you thin and tall like the biscuit sticks. In any event, the producer of pepero, Lotte Confectionary, is definitely the winner as there is a huge jump in sale of pepero in November due to “Pepero Day”.
Saewookkang is a salty chip-like snack of about 5cm long made of shrimp. Its history can be dated back to 1971 and is one of the oldest snacks in South Korea. It is offered as complimentary snack in Korean bars and can also be used to feed seagulls, ducks, swans and large goldfish.
Usually, tourists visiting South Korea buy a lot of snacks as souvenirs. When you visit South Korea next time, don’t forget to try the above four snacks and buy them for your loved ones.
Happy eating!! 🙂
Reminder: The next blog post will be published on 11 February 2015. Watch this space!
Ahn Sung-min, Rumy Doo and Elliott Brennan, “It’s snack time in Korea“, The Korea Herald, 2015-02-04
“Korea Today – Skyrocketing popularity of honey butter chips“, Arirang Issue, 2014-11-24
Lee Ji-hye, “Honey butter chips: Six things to know“, The Korea Times, 2014-11-23
Jaeyeon Woo, “Honey-flavored potato chips have Koreans buzzing“, The Wall Street Journal Asia, 2014-11-20
Lee Ji-hye, “Pepero Day: Eight things you should know“, The Korea Times, 2014-11-12
Park Mi-so, “For their maker, honey butter chips pretty sweet“, Korea JoongAng Daily, 2014-11-07
Heesun Wee, “In North Korea, will work for choco pie“, CNBC, 2013-10-06
Debbie Jeong, “Choco pie distribution to be cut down at Kaesong“, NK News, 2013-09-17
Suzy Chung, “Top 10 Korean snacks“, The Korea Blog, 2011-04-08
Lee Myoung-jin, ” “Choco Pie” is a “common noun” “, Chosun Ilbo, 1999-08-05