Healthy food and environmentally friendly products were in vogue among consumers in Korea in 2009. The consumption of health foods was boosted largely due to the spread of the H1N1 virus. Antibacterial hand gel, face masks and thermometers also temporarily sold out in E Mart. A total of 550,000 bottles of antibacterial hand gel were sold this year, and the sales of face masks jumped by 80 times from last year. Hyundai Department Store saw sales of red ginseng, which strengthens the immune system, go up 34 percent.
The expanding "green consumer" population brought about sweeping popularity of eco-bags. Hyundai Department Store gave out 80,000 to 100,000 eco-bags by famous designer to customers and ran out of stock during every sale. E Mart sold 850,000 reusable shopping bags this year, 472 times more than last year's 1,800. On the other hand, sales of disposable products like paper cups and plates declined by 34 percent.
Traditional rice wine or makgeolli also enjoyed fresh popularity this year, especially in the latter half of the year. Sales rose by 4,300 percent in November in Hyundai Department Store compared to a year ago, over 10 times the sales of Beaujolais Nouveau. The sales of thermal underwear, which had declined over recent years, bounced back this year, especially among young people, thanks to the development of new heat-generating materials.
Jang Joong-ho, an E-mart marketing executive, said, "There was a strong trend for value-based consumption this year. Consumers tended to cut down on spending in general, but invested heavily in something they saw as necessary and valuable."