The Real Reason Banana Milk Is So Popular In South Korea

Rich with nostalgia, familiarity, and rich flavor, banana milk is a staple throughout South Korea and the world at large. In and of themselves, bananas can act as comfort food: their softness, their flavor, and their nutritional makeup. It is a simulacrum that represents familiarity. Milk – either dairy or non — is yet another food of that ilk, often acting as a panacea to aid in myriad ailments, both physical and emotional. There's a subtle luxury about it, too. Something special, not just plain milk, but a thick, rich beverage that can double as a dessert.

Combine the two and there's no surprise as to how or why this sweetened, delicious milk took South Korea by storm and became a cherished drink since the 1970s when Korean company Binggrae introduced the drink to the world in an attempt to increase the milk consumption of Koreans. Binngrae's recipe contains milk, sugar, water, banana juice, vanilla, and additional artificial flavors, as noted by My Korean Kitchen

All K Pop notes that the idea to increase nationwide milk consumption came after the South Korean President traveled to Germany and noticed how much milk was often consumed by children there and he was impressed with how tall people seemed to be there. Introducing the dairy drink to the South Korean public didn't take off at first — but once banana flavoring was added, it was a whole new ballgame and the drink's popularity began to grow with fervor. 

Just how popular is banana milk?

Another reason for its longevity? According to Creatrip, banana milk was also an important product because Korea's climate is naturally too cold to actually grow bananas, so the fruit had to be imported which made it an "exotic," and unusual fruit flavor for the South Korean population to eat, bolstering the interest in the beverage and lending a luxurious, expensive element to the drink. notes that "800,000 bottles of Banana Flavored Milk are sold each day in Korea and around 6 billion bottles have been sold across the country since the product was launched in 1974." Binggrae has been selling banana milk to the U.S. since 2004 and the delicious drink is now available in more than 13 countries. It's also significantly popular in China. There are also additional flavors sold, such as strawberry, light banana, and melon.

Banana milk often comes in cutesy, twee bottles or containers that are rich with cultural relevance. The bottles are inspired by glassware of other Korean staples, such as kimchi, and also comes in plastic containers and packaging. Its classic "fat bottle" design is an iconic emblem for many who grew up drinking the beverage.

Nowadays, banana milk is revered throughout the country, with various cafes primarily serving the yellow elixir opening in recent years. Unsure which brand to buy? Spoon University did a thorough taste test of some of the most widely available brands. Or you can always make it at home!