instant coffee-sales increase

SEOUL, March 13 (Yonhap) -- Sales of instant coffee in South Korea rose on-year in 2012 for the first time in eight years thanks to the high popularity of "sugar and powdered cream-free instant coffee mix" or "ground-coffee mix," industry data showed Wednesday.

According to the data by AC Nielsen Korea, a local unit of global marketing researcher AC Nielsen, sales of instant coffee reached 161.6 billion won (US$147.4 million) last year, up 11.6 percent from 144.8 billion won a year ago.

The rise was attributed to an increase in sales of an instant coffee mix with only coffee granules or coffee powder, which has become more and more popular among local consumers, market watchers said.

Instant coffee refers to ground coffee that can be made into a drink by adding water, while the instant coffee mix or the "3-in-1 coffee" is a stick-shaped packet filled with coffee powder, powdered cream and sugar.

The instant coffee mix has been popular in South Korea due to its convenience since the 1970s when local coffee market leader Dongsuh Food Corp. developed it.

The local market for the new type of instant coffee mix with only ground coffee has grown at a faster pace since 2010 when Dongsuh Food launched its flagship ground-coffee mix brand "KANU."

Competition for the local ground-coffee mix market has been stiff as Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co., South Korea's top soft drink maker, and Namyang Dairy Products Co. rolled out their own ground-coffee brands -- "Cantata Stick" and "Looka," respectively, in order to catch up with Dongsuh Food.

Sales of the ground-coffee mix, which came to 50 billion won, are expected to reach 80 billion won this year and top 100 billion won next year, according to the data.

Sales of the traditional instant coffee mix amounted to 1.16 trillion won in 2012, according to AC Nielsen Korea.

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