Alcohol companies

In South Korea, liquor companies are turning to pop culture to boost sales


Bohae has partnered with Kian84 to create a new line of soju. Image: Courtesy of Bohae

ADrinking alcohol in South Korea has traditionally been part of the work culture. For many years, employees were regularly invited to drinking parties by their superiors. Now that attitudes towards alcohol consumption are changing, especially among younger generations, alcohol manufacturers are partnering with entertainment companies to win over this group of consumers.

Corporate culture in South Korea has long encouraged the practice of “hoesik”, compulsory drinking outings with co-workers that could last late into the night. But the relationship between Koreans and alcohol has changed in recent years. Gone are the days of institutionalized drunkenness with their boss: the country’s youth is trying to maintain a better balance between private and professional life, while consuming (a little) less alcohol.

However, people living in the K-Pop household are still heavy drinkers. Spending on alcohol rose 8.3% in 2021 from a year earlier, according to a report from analyst firm Fitch Solutions. This despite the restrictions and temporary closures of drinking establishments linked to the Covid-19 crisis.

One of the reasons for this is the practice of “homsul”, the tendency to drink, usually alone, at home. This phenomenon, which is particularly prevalent among young Koreans, has had an impact on their alcohol preferences. A particular favorite is fruit wines. More original than its grape cousin and more fashionable than fruit liqueurs, they are very popular in Asia. And even more since the start of the pandemic. “The consumption of [liquors such as] fruit wines are changing from a drink enjoyed on special days to a drink enjoyed at home, alone or sometimes with family,” South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said in a statement. relayed by Food Navigator.

Alcohol and artists

Despite this, the alcohol industry is working hard to win over millennials and even Gen Z. They fear that young Koreans are gradually turning away from alcoholic beverages to take care of their health, as seen in the United States. , UK and even Japan. The industry is therefore banking on pop culture to convince them, once and for all, of the “cool” potential of alcohol.

Bohae, a Mokpo-based spirits group, recently teamed up with hit webtoon creator Kian84 to create a new line of soju. The limited-edition bottles, titled “Yeosu Night Sea”, are described by the spirits maker as “the world’s smallest exhibit”. Their labels feature Kian84’s designs of some of its most iconic characters.

Alcohol aficionados can scan the QR codes above to find out more about this artistic collaboration, which is a communication stunt. Many wine and spirits brands have become accustomed to collaborating with creators from all walks of life – painters, designers, stylists, street artists, musicians – to increase their visibility among young consumers who are passionate about culture.

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Another tactic the alcohol industry uses to attract young consumers is investing in celebrities. One example is K-pop singer-rapper Jay Park, who launched Won Soju Spirit, the second product of his own liquor brand, in July. The first, Won Soju, was a huge success: 20,000 bottles of this Korean rice wine were sold in February during the first week of its launch, according to the Korea Times.

Jeju Beer Company, South Korea’s leading craft beer maker, hopes to create a similar buzz with AOMG Our Ale. This collection of “musical” beers was created in partnership with the AOMG record company. Each can of this limited edition features a QR code giving access to playlists featuring the label’s artists like Simon Dominic and Lee Hi. Providing a soundtrack for a beer can be a nice idea for young South Korean consumers.

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