Alternative Cooler: Kimchi Refrigerator

Samsung Electronics' Kimchi refrigerator (Left); and LG Electronics' Kimchi and Specialty Refrigerator (Right).

Company officials said on Monday that although people are decreasingly using kimchi refrigerators to store homemade kimchi, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Winia Dimchae, and other household appliance makers are enjoying brisk sales of them.

The companies said kimchi refrigerators became an “essential” alternative fridge in numerous households. More consumers avail the coolers, which is designed to preserve the traditional staple, to store different food items such as vegetables, meat, and fruits.

According to the World Institute of Kimchi, data shows more Koreans favor buying kimchi rather than arduously producing it themselves. This preference reduces the need for kimchi refrigerators, as the volume of homemade kimchi decreased from 1.47 million tons in 2014 to 1.22 million tons in 2017.

Conversely, industry data indicated the market size of kimchi refrigerators increased to about 1.3 million in 2018 from approximately 1 million units in 2013. Retailers also said they witnessed an increase of more than 20 percent of refrigerator sales this year.

Gmarket, an online shopping mall, said that compared with the same period in 2018, sales of refrigerators increased by 20 percent from October 23 to 29. Online retailer Auction reported that it also witnessed a year-on-year 24 percent increase during the same period.

Improved technology made refrigerators essential items in households, not to only store kimchi but to also many various food items, an LG official said.

The official said, “As kimchi gets more delicious when the fermented food ages at a cool temperature, Korean people used to bury crockpots containing kimchi in the ground. However, since LG, then known as Goldstar, developed the kimchi refrigerator in 1984, the appliance has become a must-have household item because now they can store various foods.”

Manufacturers said, among the types of refrigerators, floor-standing kimchi refrigerators compared to chest coolers are increasingly becoming more popular because they are more convenient to use and store more items. Also, with the rise of single-person households, smaller capacity kimchi refrigerators are sold more often, they added.

“There are generally two types of kimchi refrigerators ― a chest cooler and floor-standing one ― and the latter is thriving these days, at a ratio of 7:3,” a Samsung official said. “Consumers of our products said the floor-standing refrigerators are more convenient because they have to open a lid and bend down from the waist to reach into the chest coolers ones.”

Winia Dimchae official added that the floor-standing coolers account for about 70 percent of its total sales of kimchi refrigerators.

“The chest cooler has better performance in terms of preserving kimchi for a long period because people only open the lid to take out their kimchi and this makes the machines preserve foods inside at a steady temperature,” the official said. “However, the changing needs of consumers, which is to keep more types of foods in fresh condition, has made the floor-standing ones best sellers.”

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