Something you might have noticed if you have been walking down the streets of Korea is that there is a convenience store in almost every edge of the country. What is a convenience store you may ask? It’s basically a mini market that offers all of the basics that you would need: snacks, ramen, ice cream, drinks, toiletries, trash bags, lottery tickets, and any everyday item you can think of. And the good news is that they are open 24/7!
Tip: You can reload your T-Card in any convenience store. For more detailed information about T-Cards, refer to my past blog about Korean public transportation here!
There’s different convenience stores all around Korea and the main ones are: CU, 7Eleven, GS25, and E-Mart 24. While all of these convenience stores offer the same range of everyday items, their products slightly differ if you look carefully. Certain brands offer items that others don’t sell so here is a guide on foods and snacks that are specific to each store:
CU which is also known as “the Convenience Store for U” has become one of the most popular and commonly seen stores around Korea. With its signature purple and green sign, you’ll probably be able to spot one of their franchises in almost every other street.
I went into one of the stores to do some digging and realized that CU has a lot of unique items exclusive to the chain. One exciting item that I saw was the collaboration that they did with K-POP boy band NCT DREAM and the children's educational brand PINKFONG. The line only includes different types of spicy foods and snacks which are a nod to one of NCT DREAM’S most famous songs: ‘Hot Sauce.’
Other unique items include HEYROO which is a brand of food under CU. The name derives from ‘HEY,’ as in a friendly greeting, and ‘ROO,’ which symbolizes a friendly kangaroo that selects only the most essential foods to put in its large pocket. Pictured below are some of the different snacks with different types of flavors that HEYROO offers.
Not only has CU paired up with K-POP boy bands, but they have also paired up with top famous chef Baek Jong-won and launched a total of more than 100 kinds of convenience store foods. These include lunch boxes, rice balls, kimbaps, and other to-go set menus.
CU has continued to find success in their products with different companies and also made this exclusive CU craft beer called 7Brau GomPyo Wheat Beer, or just commonly known as GomPyo beer. It has definitely become one of the most known beers in Korea.
Last but not least, these instant drinks at CU are also a must have. Usually they have a box of cups with ice in a cooler and then have a bunch of drink options such as ades, juices, and coffees, for you to buy. You later just pour your pouch of drink into your cup of ice and voila- it feels fancy and it’s ready for you to drink. This brand of Delaffe drinks have also become an exclusive for CU.
7-Eleven is an all time favorite store for many people as it is a multinational American chain and can be found not only in Korea, but in other countries as well.
When I went into one of the stores, I was able to easily recognize a lot of 7-Eleven products by looking at the logos and brandings on their packaging. If it says “7-Select” then it’s easy to know that you can only see and buy those products in a 7-Eleven store.
Pictured below is a collaboration that 7-Eleven did with HBAF on the iconic honey butter popcorn that ranked up in sales at the time of its release.
7-Eleven also has its own line of bakery goods named “Brea;daum” which is a combined word from “Bread,” and “Dam,” (it means characteristics or qualifications). Under this brand, they strive to carefully select high-quality ingredients to make their baked goods. It currently has over 10 types of bread.
GS25 is another chain of convenience stores that you will see very often. Its signature blue and orange logos are seen at almost every corner. Similar to CU, GS25 is also owned by a Korean corporation.
GS25 has their own brand of foods named “YOU US” which include a lot of hit products. Pictured below are the different types and flavors of snacks that they offer. Many of them have become people’s go-to snacks and the line has sold so well, they are even sold in other countries such as Taiwan.
One of the best sellers have been different types of cup noodles (such as the 유어스오모리김치찌개 and 공화춘) but the all time favorite from people has been the Omori Kimchi Stew.
As iced drinks have become more and more popular and convenient with the crowd these days, most convenient stores no matter which chain will always offer you their own line of drinks. Pictured below are GS25’s “YOU US” line of drinks that they offer which include teas, coffees, and ades.
E-Mart 24 is to not be confused with E-Mart as those two are different types of stores owned by the same company. If you are looking for a convenience store, make sure you go to E-Mart 24.
When going to E-Mart 24, if the products have an “I’m-E” logo on them, then you know that the items are unique to the chain and you won’t be able to find them anywhere else but in E-Mart 24.
Similar to other convenience stores, E-Mart 24 has also launched its own line of iced drinks. Pictured below are the drinks that they offer such as iced teas, coffees, and different flavors of ades and juices.
Pictured below is one of the best selling snacks that E-Mart 24 offers to their customers which is a famous Korean spicy rice cake snack.
E-Mart 24 also has different types of unique flavors to their snacks such as the purple sweet potato chips that can be mostly seen in Korea and Asia as a flavor.
And those are some of the exclusive foods that each of the convenience store chains offer! While you can get most snacks, necessities, drinks, and foods in all of the stores, there are just some of these unique foods that you might have not noticed that each chain exclusively offers. So next time if you're craving for a specific type of ramen, chips, or drinks, make sure you go into the correct store!
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