The health functional food market in South Korea has been rapidly growing in recent years, driven by the increasing awareness of health and the growing number of silver consumers. The demand on various products accelerates the R&D on new functional ingredients. The application cases of health functional ingredients recognized by Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) in 2022 is forty-five, doubling that in 2021.
Health functional foods' safety and quality control is achieved by regulating through functional ingredients in South Korea. MFDS has notified twenty-nine functional ingredients and sixty-eight functional raw materials in the Health Functional Food Code1. To manufacture or sell health functional foods with non-notified ingredients, the business entity shall apply for individual recognition for the effectiveness and safety of the relevant materials. If the enterprises intend to claim a new efficacy of the noticed functional ingredient, approval from the authority is required as well.
In 2022, MFDS passed forty-five applications for functional ingredients. The details are as below:
|No.||Ingredients||Efficacy||Company or institution||Note|
|1||Vaccinium uliginosum L. fruits extract powder||May help to maintain skin health from skin damage by UV||CH Labs|
|May help to maintain skin moisturizing|
|2||Taheebo extract(Tabetri®)||May help to maintain joint and cartilage health||COSMAX NBT|
|3||Andrographis paniculata Wall. ex Nees Extract||May help to maintain healthy joint||BL Healthcare Corp.|
|4||Yellow rice with Aspergillus terreus(Aspergillus fermented MK01)||May help to reduce blood cholesterol levels||DAESANG|
|5||Low molecular weight collagen peptide SH||May help to moisturize (dry) skin||SUHEUNG|
|May help to maintain good skin health by protecting against damage from UV exposure|
|6||Low molecular weight collagen peptide GT||May help to moisturize (dry) skin||GELTECH||Additional application|
|May help to maintain good skin health by protecting against damage from UV exposure|
|7||Adenophora triphylla var. Japonica Hara extract||May help to reduce body fat||DONG IL Pharmtec Co., Ltd.|
|8||Fermented germinated soybean extract||May help to maintain female health in menopause||HUBIO, Co., Hu.|
|9||Black raspberry extract powder||May help to regulate blood pressure||FOODPOLIS|
|10||Black raspberry extract powder||May help to regulate blood pressure||BERRY & BIOFOOD RESEARCH INSTITUTE||Additional application|
|11||Aster glehni extract powder||May help to improve cognitive function affected by aging||KOREA EUNDAN|
|12||Terminalia chebula Retzins Extract||May help to maintain joint and cartilage health||NUON|
|13||Extract complex of Lemon verbena and Hibscus(TETREⓇ)||May help to reduce body fat||NOVAWells|
|14||Mixture of L. plantarum CECT 7527, CECT 7528 and CECT 7529||May help to reduce blood cholesterol levels||SUHEUNG|
|15||Mixture of L. plantarum CECT 7527, CECT 7528 and CECT 7529||May help to improve bowel movements||SANOPI-AVENTIS KOREA||Additional application|
|16||Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2 Probiotics||May help to improve bowel movements||Nutrione|
|17||Boswellia serrata Extract(SERRATRIN)||May help to maintain joint and cartilage health||EVERSPRING Co.,Ltd.|
|18||Ethanol extract powder of Diospyros kaki leaves||May help to maintain eye health by relieving dryness||WhanInPharm|
|19||Fermented L-glutamate GABA powder||May help to improve sleep quality||AMOREPACIFIC|
|20||Weissella cibaria JW15 Probiotics||May help to improve immune function||National Institute of Agricultural Sciences|
|21||Lactobacillus plantarum HAC01 Probiotics||May help to suppress the increase of blood glucose level after meals||AtoGEN|
|22||Extract complex of Lemon balm and Dandelion(LD100)||May help to protect liver||Phytonutrimedi|
|23||Extract complex of Lemon balm and Dandelion(LD100)||May help to protect liver||CNS PHARM KOREA CO.,LTD||Additional application|
|24||Stemed Zingiber officinale Roscoe Extract||May help to maintain healthy stomach by protecting gastric mucosa||SD Biotechnologies|
|25||Anthriscus sylvestris(L.) Hoffm Leaf Extract||May help to maintain healthy joint||Natural Cure|
|26||Extract complex of Cornus officinalis and Ribes fasciculatum||May help to reduce body fat||NINE B Co., Ltd.|
|27||Ashwagandha extract(ShodenⓇ)||May help to improve sleep quality||COSMAX NS|
|28||Rhapontic Rhubarb root extract||May help to maintain female health in menopause||ONATRA Co., Ltd.||Additional application|
|29||Complex of Lutein and Zeaxanthin extracted from Tagetes erecta L.||May support eye health by maintaining the density of macular pigmentsaffected by aging||Ahn-Gook Health Co., Ltd.||Additional application|
|30||Tremella fuciformis Extract Powder||May help to improve cognitive function affected by aging||Pulmuone Health&Living|
|31||Vitis labrusca L. Leaf Extract||May help to improve blood circulation by inhibiting platelet aggregation||HANPOONG PHARM Co.,Ltd|
|32||Lactobacillus plantarum TWK10 Probiotics||May help to improve endurance of exercise performance capability||COSMAX NS|
|33||Red ginseng Oil(KGC11o)||May help to maintain healthy prostate||Korea Ginseng Corporation|
|34||Heat treated green tea extract||May help to improve memory||AMOREPACIFIC|
|35||Weissella cibaria JW15 Probiotics||May help to immune function||Huons Foodience||Additional application|
|36||Aster spathulifolius Leaf Extract||May help to reduce body fat||NOVAWells||Additional application|
|37||Andrographis paniculata Wall. ex Nees Extract||May help to maintain healthy joint||ACROM||Additional application|
|38||Bonito Elastin Peptide(VGPG Elastin®)||May help to maintain skin moisturizing||DAEHAN CHEMTECH Co.,Ltd|
|May help to maintain skin health against skin damage by UV radiation|
|39||Complex of Krill oil, Hematococcus extract and Sodium hyaluronate||May help to maintain healthy joint||NOVAREX|
|40||Lespedeza cuneata G. Don extract||May help to maintain male health in menopause||NATURAL WAY CO.,LTD|
|41||Krill Oil(FJH-KO)||May help to maintain healthy joint||Frombio|
|42||Scrophularia buergeriana Miquel Extract||May help to improve memory||NUON|
|43||Complex of Lactobacillus plantarum C29 Probiotics and fermented soybean powder(DW2009)||May help to improve cognitive function affected by aging||DONGWHA Pharm|
|44||Bokbunja powder||May help to protect body from oxidative stress||FOODPOLIS|
|45||Bacillus coagulans Unique IS-2 Probiotics||May help to improve bowel movements||Jyglobalfoods Co., Ltd||Additional application|
(*"Additional Application" refers to the application for new efficacy of the recognized ingredient or the application for using the recognized ingredients by new enterprises.)
Amongst the applications for functional ingredients, thirty-five cases are for the recognition of new functional materials, reaching the peak of new ingredient application in the recent decade (See Figure 1).
(Figure 1. Functional Material Recognition Tendency, data source: MFDS2)
Until 2014, the proportion of imported ingredients among the recognized functional ingredients was high at about 70%, but since 2015, the proportion of domestic ingredients has been increasing, accounting for more than 50% (See Figure 2). The increase in the recognition rate of Korean domestically developed functional ingredients was achieved due to the state’s supports for functional ingredients R&D and the improvement of standardization technology for ingredients through the gradual mandatory establishment of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).
(Figure 2. Functional Material Recognition Cases, data source: MFDS2)
In terms of ingredients’ efficacies, “joint health enhancement” accounts for the most, followed by “weight loss”, “skin health”, “cognitive function improvement”, and “blood cholesterol reduction” (See Figure 3).
(Figure 3. Efficacies of the Recognized Functional Ingredients 2022, data source: MFDS2)
Seen from the status of efficacy recognition for health functional foods in the last five years, the most applied efficacies are body fat reduction (44 cases), skin health (37 cases), immune enhancement (26 cases), liver health (17 cases), and menopausal health care for women (15 cases). However, the application status in 2022, with muscle strength improvement (5 cases), memory improvement (3 cases), and cognitive function improvement (3 cases) in an uptrend, indicates that the industry shows a growing interest in the R&D on functionalities that can benefit the elderly and other specific groups.
The increase of functional ingredient recognition in 2022 reflects the health revitalization in South Korea, showing the fact that more players enter the market. The entry of various products has brought different products and provided more options for consumers. However, at the same time, the health functional food market would truly become more competitive, especially for imported products. With numerous players in the market, overseas enterprises should be aware of the market share that may be taken by the Korean domestic products that have more popularity among Korean citizens and are at low prices. Innovation in product development and unique marketing strategies can help enterprises differentiate their products and gain market share.
Regulatory compliance is also an essential point. The Korean government has strict regulations governing the health functional food market. Selling non-compliance products is prohibited in South Korea and the seller will face a heavy administrative penalty. Compliance also means safety and brand reputation. As Korean consumers are highly brand-conscious, a strong brand can be a significant differentiator in the market. A trustworthy brand image can be a substantial differentiator in the market. Therefore, enterprises are suggested to familiarize themselves with the relevant laws and ensure their products meet the required standards.