Beverage franchises and snack makers in South Korea are rushing to introduce “excessively” sweetened treats as more Koreans seek solace in their sweet tooth amid rising stress and economic pain, according to food industry officials.
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Just three years after Taiwanese Castella sponge cakes gained instant popularity in Korea, black sugar bubble tea has become another star product among the plethora of snacks and drinks.
Black sugar is an unrefined version of highly processed sugar, which features an inky hue and caramel flavor.
Since the arrival of the popular Taiwanese bubble tea shop Tiger Sugar, food and beverage companies have been rushing to release black sugar inspired products.
A number of coffee shop franchises have rolled out brand new menus that contain black sugar. A Twosome Place, Ediya Coffee, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, and Caffe Pascucci all introduced black sugar drinks in the first half of 2019.
“We have decided to launch black sugar latte as a seasonal item to catch upon customers’ insatiable appetite for black sugar. So far, we have been getting positive reviews and consumers seem to be attracted to thick black sugar syrup with creamy coffee,” said a coffee shop franchise official, who asked not to be named.
“From an industry point of view, I am a little worried that the competition might become more intense. But from a consumer point of view, it is a good thing because there are more options to choose from,” the official said.
Snack companies have also flocked to integrate black sugar into their signature snacks. Haitai Confectionery and Foods released black sugar coated Matdongsan peanut crunch snacks while Samyang Foods released black sugar coated Changgu.
“Black sugar coated Changgu is less sweet and has a softer taste compared to the original Changgu, a honey-flavored snack with cinnamon powder. It is also smokier,” a Samyang Foods official said.
He said if black sugar coated Changgu is well-received by the public, the company may review turning it into a permanent product.
Food critics say that the popularity of black sugar somewhat derives from the economic slowdown, complementing with the popularity of spicy food.
“It is a proven fact that during an economic slowdown, we witness huge demand for spicy foods. What is funny is that after eating hot and spicy foods, you devour sweet desserts,” food critic Lee Yong-jae said.
“In the past, people searched for instant coffee sticks and then moved on to macarons and Castellas (the Japanese sponge cake), and finally to black sugar bubble teas,” Lee said.
Lee, however, warned that there are already too many franchise locations.
“In the Myeongdong shopping district in Seoul, I could literally find a black sugar bubble tea shop in every building. Entrepreneurs and franchise store operators should be cautious of expanding and following the same formula, because if not, they can end up like Castella franchise owners that went out of business,” Lee said.
(Source: Korea Times)