Flavored makgeolli captures hearts of Millennials, Gen Zers

Participants taste different makgeolli products at 2024 Makgeolli Expo, also known as MAXPO, held at aT Center in  Seocho District, southern Seoul, May 10. Yonhap

Korea’s traditional rice-based alcohol, “makgeolli,” was perceived for a long time as an old-fashioned drink and stereotyped as a low-quality, mass-produced beverage known for causing bad hangovers.However, the cloudy white drink has recently gained popularity among younger generations thanks to a series of young entrepreneurs who are giving it a modern makeover with exciting flavors and trendy branding.For Amy Kim, a makgeolli enthusiast in her early 30s, these new flavored makgeolli products are gems to explore.“When new flavored makgeolli is released, I tend to try it out of curiosity, although ultimately, my enjoyment depends on how well it pairs with the food,” she said, noting that social media hype around the products also helps promote them to the younger generation.“These days, the trend of trying new flavors and sharing information about their taste on social media is prevalent. Many people are willing to wait in long queues at popular places just to try these drinks and share their experiences online,” Kim added.

According to the Food Information Statistics System, the makegolli market grew from about 459.1 billion won ($336.3 million) in 2018 to over 519 billion won in 2022. Capitalizing on this trend, more breweries are jumping on board with their ready-to-drink makgeolli, offering innovative flavors to appeal to the tastes of Millennials and Gen Z consumers.Earlier this year, GS25, a major Korean convenience store franchise owned by GS Retail, launched a new project called “Hipgeolli” (a blend of “hip” and “makgeolli”), in collaboration with local breweries run by entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s.The project debuted with the basil-flavored drink “Nerdy Hope Dry,” made with locally grown basil from Sangju in North Gyeongsang Province. This beverage is the flagship makgeolli of Sangju Jujo, a brewery run by 32-year-old CEO Lee Seung-chul.According to the convenience store chain, the brewery saw sales soar over 250 percent within a month of the product’s launch in stores on Feb. 5. Initially slated for pre-sale from Jan. 23 to 29, the makgeolli product sold out on the first day. After the launch, nearly 90% of the inventory was depleted through offline 스포츠토토존 sales.

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