Good morning… But not for me!
Why, you ask? Well, there’s this specific bread🥖 that’s been all the rage these days, but I can’t seem to find it in any of my local convenience stores. No matter where or when I go, this confounded bread is always sold out! Out of stock! Depleted! Even today, I’ve scoured five convenience stores, but couldn’t find a crumb. I’ve got to succeed tomorrow, even if it means going on an expedition to another neighborhood.
Oh, look at me forgetting to introduce myself! Hey – it’s 민지[Minji] from 유행[yuhaeng], your ever faithful guide to the world of Korean hipsters. Why am I so worked up over a lump of bread? Well, this isn’t just any old lump of bread! It’s an exclusive bread you can only find in convenience stores! You can (supposedly) find this elusive bread, called ‘Cookie Run: Kingdom Sticker Bread,’ at the convenience store chain CU. Here’s the kicker: if you buy one, you’ll get an adorable sticker thrown in for free! In Korea, we call these stickers ‘띠부띠부씰[tti-bu-tti-bu-ssil]’ to capture the action of ‘peeling off and pasting’ a sticker onto a surface. FYI, ‘띠부띠부씰’ is actually a repetition of the Korean words ‘떼다[tte-da](remove)’ and ‘붙이다[bu-chi-da](attach).’ ‘띠부띠부씰’ is created by combining the first syllables of each word in the phrase ‘띠고 붙이고 띠고 붙이고[ttigo-buchigo-ttigo-buchigo](remove and attach, remove and attach)!’ A cute synthesis of the two words, isn’t it?
Whenever I see others post their sticker books containing the full set of ‘Cookie Run Bread’ 띠부띠부씰[tti-bu-tti-bu-ssil] on social media, my own thirst to collect them all flares ever brighter. I’m currently on an ambitious ‘convenience store tour’ as part of a mission to have all the stickers in my possession someday.
In this way, the convenience store has become a place where Korean 힙스터[hipsters] can quickly access the latest trendy items. In fact, it’s come to the point where if you're curious about popular products in Korea, I’d just tell you to browse through a convenience store! As more convenience store products are becoming capable of inducing ‘out-of-stock crises,’ it’s not unusual to see customers waiting in front of these stores for a delivery truck to arrive. All in order to be the first in line to purchase the desired product as soon as it’s restocked! ‘What in the world are Korean convenience stores selling for this kind of phenomenon to happen?’ Scroll down if you want to know more! From here on out, I’ll be introducing you to some of the hottest convenience store products Korean hipsters can’t help but pine after!
🛒Korean convenience store, the one-stop shop for everything you’d ever want: from must-have character merchandise to hip products!
I can’t believe it’s not heaven! A cream bun filled with fluffy goodness all photoholics should avoid
What do you think of when you hear ‘convenience store bread?’ If you thought of some humdrum piece of bread good for filling your stomach at a low price, wipe that thought outta your head. Korean convenience stores have several types and flavors of bread that break this mold. At the top of the list is the cream bun, a bread filled with fluffy cream that will move you into taking pictures. The convenience store CU is no stranger to cream bun fame, hitting it big with 'Yonsei Milk Cream Bread' and ‘Cheddar Cheese Whipped Cream Bread.’ The thick cream that oozes out when you cut the bread in half sure is impressive. A fun fact: the ‘Yonsei Milk Cream Bread’ is ranked third in convenience store items liked by foreigners, so those interested in Korea may already know of it.
And it’s not just CU that’s caught the attention of hipsters with their cream-filled buns. From the doughnut-shop-tier visuals of convenience store GS25’s ‘Salty Milk Cream Doughnut’ and ‘Custard Cream Doughnut’ to convenience store emart24’s ‘Whipped Cream Bomb Doughnut’ and ‘Custard Cream Bomb Doughnut,’ several Korean convenience stores have put their own twist on the cream bun. Not to be left behind, the convenience store 7-Eleven is planning to release the ‘Jeju Milk Whipped Cream Bread,’ named so because the dough is mixed with Jeju milk in place of water. So if you happen to discover some cream bread in the convenience store, don’t hesitate to put it in your cart. It’s likely a rare find that will have people lining up in droves to buy.
Character collaboration merchandise: products that will arouse your inner collector’s spirit
It would be a huge oversight to talk about trendy items without mentioning character collaboration merchandise! That’s how loaded convenience stores are with hip and fun character collaboration goods. Remember the ‘Cookie Run Bread’ I was talking about earlier (the one with the collectible stickers I was searching for in every nook and cranny since the morning)? This very bread is one of those products that arose from a collaboration with a popular character.
Running neck and neck in popularity with ‘Cookie Run Bread’ is none other than ‘MapleStory Bread,’ released by the convenience store GS25. For many Korean millennials (20~30 year olds), ‘MapleStory’ generates a wave of nostalgia as a game they’d have enjoyed in their childhood. For this population, ‘MapleStory Bread’ has awakened dormant hopes, dreams, and memories from childhood. Imagine a game you had loved as a child reentered your life in bread form after 10~20 years! I bet it would be rather difficult resisting the urge to buy it.
Ⓒ Convenience store GS25’s official homepage
Maple Bread (from left, Garlic Shrimp Chip, Choco Corn, Egg Cookies, Caramel Cheese Stick)
You’ll regret it if you don’t have a taste: products from hip F&B brands
If you’re visiting Korea but find yourself short on time to stop by popular cafés or restaurants, check out a nearby convenience store. There should be no shortage of convenience stores featuring collaborations with hip F&B (food and beverage) brands! GS25, in particular, is well-known for its tendency to collaborate with hip locations. Have you heard of ‘Camel Coffee’ by any chance? A popular café notorious for its long wait times, you can now easily sample some of their products through their collaboration with GS25. The ‘Knotted Doughnut’ is another product which arose out of a GS25 collaboration, this time with Cafe Knotted, a cafe cherished by Korean hipsters for their sweet desserts.
This ‘hip collaboration fad’ finds its origin in the beverage ‘Gompyo Wheat Beer.’ In fact, ‘Gompyo Wheat Beer’ played a large role in the dissemination of the now regularly used Korean phrase ‘편의점 품절 대란[convenience store out-of-stock crisis].' But this product has quite the unusual history. Perhaps surprisingly, the drink wasn’t created by the food & beverage industry, but through a partnership between a beer manufacturing business and a brand of flour. Named ‘Gompyo’ after a famous brand of flour in Korea, this beer generated much interest among the public. Not to mention, the taste was phenomenal as well! With ‘Gompyo Wheat Beer’ flying off the shelves of convenience stores like CU, many have come to know ‘Gompyo’ as a brand of beer rather than flour.
ⓒ BGF Retail
‘곰표[Gompyo]’ Popcorn and Wheat beers
reborn as ‘bona fide hip space’
So, how exactly did Korean convenience stores manage to become the trendy space today’s hipsters know and love? As a matter of fact, convenience stores weren’t all that hot when they first entered the Korean market. Back then, they were recognized only as 24-hour stores located on easily accessible roadsides. One would visit a convenience store out of (you guessed it) convenience. The simple and efficient nature of these stores was then used as justification to price products higher than ordinary marts.
Slowly but surely, however, the products and services offered by these convenience stores began to change. Special deals and discounts became staples of the convenience store experience: related products were sold in sensible 1+1 or 2+1 sets, stores would often partner up with telecommunications service providers to offer reduced prices. (Nowadays, accessing such services at a discounted price is a given at any convenience store!) Many stores have even begun to develop products independently, leading to the rise of PB (private brand) products.
As the selection of products supplied by convenience stores continues to diversify, convenience stores are reinventing themselves as all-around spaces equipped with nothing short of everything. Aside from the products I’ve introduced up to this point, convenience stores are chock-full of all sorts of easy-to-make foods. Whether it’s ramen, kimbap, noodles, fried rice, tripe, chicken feet, or pyeonyuk (thinly sliced boiled meat), you name it, they have it. If convenience stores sell such a varied array of products at reasonable prices, all while being easily accessible, why would anyone not go? And combine these features with today’s soaring prices, hallmarks of a worsening economy. In the midst of this global recession, convenience stores have emerged as a place where one can at least enjoy a meal at a reasonable price.
The convenience store industry, now freed of the prejudice and aversion that comes with the perception ‘convenience stores are expensive,’ has launched a full-fledged strategy to captivate the younger generation. The previously discussed ‘character collaboration merchandise that arouses your inner collector’s spirit’ and ‘products from hip F&B brands you’ll regret not tasting’ are the fruits of these marketing efforts. These products have successfully stolen the hearts of today’s youth, a generation with a penchant for collecting and consumption without regrets. And for this younger generation, consumption isn’t confined to the simple act of buying and using a product. Just look at those on social media who share their experience chasing after delivery trucks in pursuit of specific products. In this way, consuming goods from convenience stores includes not only one’s use of the product, but the sharing of one’s experiences with the product. And these experiences, in turn, call forth new waves of young people to their local convenience stores!
🖍️ Today’s 유행[yuhaeng]!
summarized in three sentences
The Korean convenience store – a place with all things trendy. From elusive bread that can only be bought by the quickest customers to collaboration products, the convenience store is a modus vivendi! If you want to reinvent yourself as a hipster, you’d better head on over to a convenience store while its stock remains aplenty.
In ‘Honey tip Korea!’ we’ll let you in on some useful tips to know when traveling or living in Korea. These include tidbits on commonly used expressions, cultural contexts, and other information locals naturally reference as they go through their lives. All the sweet information you need to know, delivered directly from local Koreans to you!
Are there any convenience store services dedicated to foreigners?
Have you heard that convenience stores have become one of the must-visit tourist sites among foreigners traveling to Korea? For those planning to drop by a Korean convenience store, here are some convenience store services provided especially for you. The convenience store GS25 operates foreign currency exchange kiosks in areas popular among international tourists, such as Dongdaemun and Gimpo International Airport. Here, you’ll be able to exchange into won foreign currency from a total of 15 countries, including the dollar, yen, euro, and yuan. For any change that is difficult to exchange, you’ll be able to convert them into GS25 points, which can then be used to purchase various products.
Additionally, the convenience store CU has started offering VAT refund services at certain stores. Just scan your passport at the checkout counter, and you’ll be able to purchase goods without a VAT charge. I’ve heard that this service has been quite helpful for international tourists. I hope this Honey Tip will result in a more convenient shopping experience should you visit a Korean convenience store.
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