KPOP Foods Update: Since 2020, Our Retail & Distribution Revenue Grew 10x [$2.4M/Year]

Published: November 7th, 2022
Theo Lee
Founder, KPOP Foods
KPOP Foods
from Los Angeles, California, USA
started February 2017
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Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.

Hello, my name is Theo Lee and I’m the Co-founder and CEO of KPOP Foods, a Korean food brand with a line of chef-crafted sauces and premium roasted seaweed snacks.

A lot has changed since the last time we were here on Starter Story in 2019, as we've grown into over 3,000 retail locations, including The Fresh Market, Stop & Shop, Safeway, and more. Additionally, we’ve been acquired by Wooltari USA, an importer of premium Korean food products ranging from frozen seafood to shelf-stable snacks, at the end of 2021.

Today, KPOP Foods continues to operate as a wholly-owned company under Wooltari USA and we’re working on launching with Albertson’s throughout California and Seattle in early 2023.


Tell us about what you’ve been up to. Has the business been growing?

We’ve been incredibly busy with several exciting initiatives, which include launching our sauces at several popular grocery chains, such as Stater Bros, Central Market, and Meijer this October.

Since 2020, we’ve seen our revenue from retail and distribution grow over 10x and today, it’s now greater than our revenue from online. It truly has been such an amazing experience being able to witness this channel grow exponentially in such a short time period. This is largely in part due to how fortunate we’ve been to have great retail and distribution partners to guide us over the past couple of years.


As we head into the holiday season, we’re thrilled to be bringing our 3-pack gift set boxes featuring our Kimchi Mayo Sauce, Original Korean Chili Sauce, and Honey Glaze Sauce, to select Fred Meyer locations and Bed Bath & Beyond.

On top of that, we’ve also been working very closely with Wooltari to introduce some new products in 2023. Wooltari has developed incredible relationships with Korean manufacturers overseas, which will allow us to bring on a variety of authentic Korean products under KPOP Foods.

Lastly, we recently had a great opportunity to be speakers at UCLA Anderson’s orientation week and share our story of how we started KPOP Foods while at Anderson and how far we’ve come. It was awesome reflecting on our early days and sharing advice with incoming students and some aspiring entrepreneurs.

What have been your biggest challenges in the last year?

Aside from manufacturing and production to handle our growth, one of the biggest challenges we’ve been working through is integrating with Wooltari USA and their team. The one thing that has helped us is that we all share a common goal of sharing Korean food and flavors with everyone. However, we’ve also had to change up a lot of our reporting and organizational structures that are very new to our team.

Additionally, we’ve had to incorporate several new processes in our decision-making process as now being part of a larger entity, as well as combat for resources. These were all things we knew about before being acquired, but until you go through the process, it’s hard to know how things will happen.

In the end, though, we’re still happy with the decision and working hard for our combined future.


What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?

Over the last year, I learned about the importance of communication, which has been key for our relationship with Wooltari post-merger. While KPOP Foods and Wooltari share the same mission of sharing Korean food, we’re in essence very different businesses.

With KPOP Foods being a manufacturer that also sells online and in retail, and Wooltari being an importer of over a thousand different products and selling online via its website and its licensed grocery stores, there are a lot of new terminology and business concepts that we each have to learn and understand. Specifically, when we combined our warehousing and operations, we had to be overly communicative with shipments coming in and out, order fulfillment, and more.

As with many other companies, we’ve also learned to be even more agile, especially with our supply chain, as many companies have run into shortages of inventory and raw goods.

Thankfully, our team has been great in foreseeing issues and working with manufacturers to avoid major issues, especially as we were growing with the addition of new grocery stores. However, despite all our efforts, we did have to increase our prices to deal with the increased costs of various ingredients. While we were super concerned, our customers and retail partners have understood our reasonings and have worked with us to overcome these changes.

What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?

Our big focus in the upcoming year is a product development and collaborating with Wooltari to launch something revolutionary and exciting for people to enjoy.

We’ll be sticking with Korean food but with that, we’ll be learning a lot of new things depending on if we decide to go into new categories within the grocery store (fresh or frozen).

Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?

The biggest thing here is to look towards your advisors, friends, and mentors, and be ok with asking for help or getting their take on a problem.

You’d be surprised at how much people want to help either with their ideas or potential introductions. Opening up and asking for help, can also sometimes help you brainstorm and find new solutions for growth.

Where can we go to learn more?

You can learn more about us on Instagram @KPOPFoods, TikTok @KPOPFoodsOfficial, and our website.