By Bahk Eun-ji

Domestic snack makers are losing customers to cheaper imported products.

Lotte Mart, one of the nation’s major retail outlets, said Sunday that it saw its sales of domestically-made snacks fall 12. 7 percent in the first quarter of the year from a year earlier In contrast, imported snack sales increased 12.6 percent in the same period.

Lotte Mart officials said imported snacks account for 26.5 percent of its total snack sales this year, up from 20. 9 percent last year and 16.4 percent in 2012.

“Retail outlets selling imported snacks at relatively low prices have been growing recently thanks to growing demand,” a Lotte Mart official.

“Many consumers seem to be turning to imported goods in the wake of recent upward spirals in prices of domestic snacks,” he added.

Lotte Confectionery raised its product prices by about 10 percent last November, and Haitai Confectionery amp Foods did the same on seven products by 8 percent. Orion also increased prices of 13 items by 69 percent on average last December

Customers are also turning their backs on snacks of domestic firms as they believe the actual quantity of the products has been exaggerated by packaging.

According to Consumer Research, an institute monitoring consumer trends, the actual contents of 17 items or 85 percent among 20 items produced by domestic confectionary companies, barely take up half the totalpackage volume.

For example, inside one box of 1,021 cubic centimeters of Market O Real Brownies, a chocolate-flavored cake produced by Orion, there are only 172cc of cake which take up only 19. 3 percent of the whole packaging, according to the institute.

Gateau White, a cheese flavored cake-type snack from Lotte Confectionery, has only 19. 3 percent of contents in its package.

Customers are fed up with the trickery of domestic snacks.

“These days, I can easily buy imported snacks at local supermarkets, food halls at department stores, or even on internet shopping malls,” said Lee Hye-mi, a Seoul housewife.

“The funny part is they are a lot cheaper and even larger than domestic ones not to mention the taste, so I don’t even go to snack corners when I go grocery shopping at supermarkets,” Lee added.

Following the trend, domestic retailers have started specialty corners selling imported snacks in Incheon, and Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province.

At the same time, customers nowadays can buy snacks and sweets directly by using overseas internet shopping malls.

Some domestic online shopping malls are moving to open new sections for imported snacks, with 11ST, one of the nation’s major online stores, scheduled to open a specialty section for imported food and snacks next month.

SOURCE: The Korea Times