Kirin Spring Valley Brewery

 This post took me in a different direction than originally intended. I started out thinking this was simply a case of a major brewer pretending to be a micro-brewer. The real story here is more about the interesting history of Kirin Beer, something I had forgotten.

On the grounds of its Yokohama Brewery, Kirin runs a microbrewery and restaurant called Spring Valley Brewery. Currently, there are seven varieties of beer on offer and the price per bottle averages 430 yen. These same beers are also available for sale on the internet. Getting this far, it looked to me that it was simply a case of one of the big guys muscling in on mom and pop microbrewery territory.

It is not quite that simple though. Spring Valley Brewery is actually the name of what Kirin calls the first brewery in Japan that was a business success. In 1869, William Copeland, a Norwegian-American brewer, made the shift from dairy to beer brewing and established Spring Valley Brewery in Yokohama. Copeland was at the forefront of employing what was then the new pasteurization technique. He also dug a 210 meter cave in the side of a hill in Yokohama in order to have a fixed temperature space for controlled beer maturation.

In 1885, with the help of famous Scottish trader Blake Thomas Glover, the business was sold to a group of Japanese investors which included the president of Mitsubishi. The new business, called The Japan Brewery, was founded and incorporated in Hong Kong. This was the forerunner of Kirin Brewery. Glover is buried in the Foreigner's Cemetery in Yokohama and his grave is maintained by Kirin.

So Spring Valley Brewery is a throwback to Kirin's roots, and the Copeland variety is named for the founder. Interesting history.

Key Words: Spring Valley Brewery, Kirin Beer, William Copeland ウィリアム・コープランド キリンビール スプリングバレーブルワリー

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Kirin Namacha Green Tea

Kirin touts a propitiatory method to be the secret behind the taste of its Namacha Tea. The process centers around the use of ceramic balls to crush the tea leaves. Typically, tea leaves are mechanically cut, but Kirin uses creamic balls and a ceramic ball mill to more finely cut the leaves and therefore more efficiently release tea extract essential to genuine tea taste. The complete presess consists of three steps: crushing the leaves with ceramic ball instead of cutting, pressing the resulting mass as a whole to extract all the flavor, and low temperature extraction to avoid any loss or change of flavor due to temperature.

The web page also makes a point of the completely green packaging, which is said to convey a more basic tea image.

Tea is an important product category in Japan, where even seemingly minor taste advanages can be very important

Key words: Kirin, Namucha, Tea, キリン 生茶


Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


White Black Thunder

This is a Hokkaido-only special edition of Black Thunder a popular chocolate snack. It is made with white chocolate in the company's Sapporo factory. The added copy reads "white thunder god" 白い雷神 (the thunder god is a Shinto-related god often seen in Japanese prints) and "Deliciousness straight down" おいしさ直滑降 (the word for straight down is most often used with skiing).

Black Thunder is the most well known brand from Tokyo based Yuraku Seika Confectionery company.

Key Words: Black Thunder, Yuraku Seika, ブラックサンダー ユーラク製菓


Kamaboko and Shirasu Pizza

Pizza can be a different experience in Japan. In addition to what you might call typical pizza varieties in Western countries like pepperoni and triple cheese, you also encounter liberal use of corn and mayonnaise here. At a party last night, in what might be a first for me, kamaboko and shirasu pizza was served. Kamaboko is cured surimi, but is also referred to as fish paste or even fish hot dogs. Kamaboko is not just a way to process excess fish protein, it is actually considered a staple of almost any multi-serving Japanese meal. Kamaboko can be very expensive.

What you see pictured here is a cheese pizza with distinct mayonnaise flavor topped with kamaboko slices and shirasu (I had to look up the English - small fry of fish or whitebait).

Probably not something you would find on a menu outside Japan, but it was actually quite good.

Key Words: Pizza, Kamaboko, Shirasu ピザ 蒲鉾 シラス 白子


Calbee FritoLay Doritos

FritoLay, which goes through a Calbee owned company in Japan, has introduced dark black garlic pepper Doritos for Halloween. There is an image of a Dracula figure and in English it says "I can't eat garlic, but I want to eat this!" In Japanese, it says "トリックオアパリット!" which translates as "Trick or Crisp!"

Key Words: Calbee, FritoLay, Doritos, Halloween, pepper garlic カルビー ドリトス フリットレー ドリトス ハロウィン ペッパーガーリック


Morinaga Creap Creamy Powder

One product name that frequently makes non-Japanese laugh is Morinaga's Creap creamy powder, which is powdered cream mostly used for coffee. However, this is one of Japan's best known brands which is now celebrating 55 years on the market. It is also the only cream powder on the market actually made from milk and not plant based oils. Besides celebrating its 55th anniversary, Morinaga is introducing plastic containers to replace the long used glass bottles.

Key Words: Morinaga, Creap 森永 クリープ

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Meiji Bulgaria Green Fruits Mix Drink Yogurt

 Meiji has introduced Bulgaria Green Fruits Mix Drink Yogurt in the still relatively new screw top bottles.


MegMilk Snow Brand Baristaism Chilld Cup Coffee

MegMilk Snow Brand has introduced a new chilled cup coffee line called Baritaism, which is centered around Hiroshi Sawada 澤田洋史, who in 2008 became the first Asian to win the Free Pour Latte World Championship with the highest ever recorded score. Even though the name does not really make sense in English, the press release describes how trendy it is.

Chilled coffees sell at a premium and are always marketed as a luxury, so the imagery fits perfectly. However, at present, the brand is tied solely to this one latte artist. Odd to create a new brand which depends on one spokesperson. Maybe they will introduce other baristas in the future. Also, he won his notoriety as a latte artist, which has nothing to do with taste and cannot be reproduced in a chilled cup coffee where you sip the coffee through a straw and never actually see the coffee.

So, I am left with more questions than answers, but marketing like this is aimed more at imagery and feeling than logic. If the product actually tastes good, everything else will be forgotten.

Key Words: MegMilk Snow Brand, Bristaism, Hiroshi Sawada 雪印メグミルク バリスタイズム 澤田洋史

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Organic Milk and Shelf Life

Below is a link to a short but interesting Q&A from The New York Times.

In short (my summary),
Q. Why does organic milk have a longer shelf life than regular milk?
A. Demand for organic milk is less, therefore it has to travel farther to market. Therefore ultra high temperature (UHT) pasteurization (as opposed to HTST) is used for organic milk, which extends the shelf life.

All factually correct. However, by itself the illustration accompanying the article is misleading because there is no inherent connection between organic milk and extended shelf life. Marketing realities demand different processing techniques.

And this answer does not even hit upon the irony of many people buying organic because they think it tastes better. The negative effect of UHT pasteurization on taste is very apparent to anyone who takes the time to compare the two. So buying organic might actually provide inferior taste, due to market necessities.

As with any issue, when you dig down, nothing is ever as simple and straight forward as you might like it to be.


Pokka Sapporo Aromax Coffee

Aromax Coffee is Pokka Sapporo's premium line of canned coffees. The current 5 varieties can be seen in the image above: Premium, Black, Low Sugar, Latte, and Caramel Macchiato. The obvious connection between the product line name, packaging and improved taste is the large screw top which allows more aroma out of the can and enhances the flavor perception of the product. That is pretty straight forward, aroma plays a huge role in flavor (as opposed to taste perception in the mouth).

However, looking at the webpage, Pokka Sapporo sites more reasons behind improved taste of this line and I have listed them below.
1) coffee beans are specially selected and then roasted under optimal conditions (light, medium or deep roast depending on the bean). I take it this is opposed to cheaper methods where beans are mixed and roasted all together.
2) more coffee beans (1.2 times more) are used to obtain a rich flavor
3) different coffee bean blends (the most suitable coffee bean blends) are used for each product.
4) The patented Fresh Natural Aroma Method (フレッシュナチュラルアロマ製法) is used for retaining the original taste of the coffee without resorting to the use of any added flavors at the end of the process. The flavors are retained by showering hot water on the roasting beans and capturing any escaping flavor compounds, condensing them back to a liquid and reinjecting these flavor compounds at the end of the process.
 5) In order to avoid off flavors resulting from oxidation products, Pokka Sapporo has developed a process (脱酸素製法) remove most of the oxygen prior to processing. (They indirectly reference similar methods used such as for Meiji Oishii Gyunyu "Delicious Milk").
 6) Finally, the mention the large screw cap which they somewhat akwardly call the Wide Mouth Bottle Can "広口ボトル缶".

So, when you buy Pokka Sapporo Aromax Coffee, a lot of thought and technology has gone into bringing this product to market.

Key Words: Pokka Sapporo, Aromax Coffee, Fresh Natural Aroma Method, deoxygenation, Wide Mouth Bottle Can ポッカサッポロ フレッシュナチュラルアロマ製法 脱酸素製法 広口ボトル缶

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


KFC Peach and Peach Krushers

KFC Japan has a new Krushers variety, Peach and Peach which contains peach bits and juice from both white and yellow peaches. Vanilla biscuit is added for more crunchy texture. Like the other Krushers varieties, and packs calories (329 kcal), but nevertheless not as much as the Matcha Azuki variety (552 kcal).

Key Words: Kentucky Fried Chicken, Krushers ケンタッキーフライドチキン

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


McDonald's Halloween Chocolate Fries

 McDonald's Japan has made some news with this Halloween themed special. Add 60 yen to the price of any set and you get fries covered in chocolate and pumpkin sauce creating nice colorful imagery.

Sourcing: potatoes (US), cacao (Indonesia), pumpkin (New Zealand)
 Key Words: McDonald's, Halloween, cacao, chocolate, pumpkin マックドナルド ハロウィン カカオ チョコ パンプキン

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Sapporo THAT'S HOP Sorachi Ace

Sapporo has a craft beer line called THAT'S HOP and now they have added a new beer called Sorachi Ace, named after a hop variety.

The company, this product and the history of the hop have a related, interesting history.
1) Sapporo, with local farmers in the Sorachi 空知 area of Hokkaido, developed this hop variety in the 1984 and sold beer varieties using this hop, but these products were before their time (according to the company).
2) US hop grower Darren Gamache of Virgil Gamache Farms in Washington State obtained Sorachi Ace from the USDA Hop Cultivar Collection, cultivated it and offered it for sale in 2006.
3) during the Hop Crisis of 2008 when hop prices soared due to supply and weather problems, many brewers in the US turned to this hop variety which has a special lemony auroma. Since then it has been a steady niche hop variety in the US and Europe.
4) now things have come full circle with Sapporo collaborating with Darren Gamache to bring the hop back to Japan for Sapporo THAT'S HOP Sorachi Ace beer.

From what I can see this beer if only available on Amazon and possibly in special Sapporo beer halls. Amazon is also the place where most of the information about this beer can be found - very little on the website.

Key Words: Sapporo Beer, Sorachi, Hokkaido, Sorachi Ace, Hop サッポロビール ソラチエース 空知支庁 北海道 ホップ

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Morinaga Lipton Tea Halloween Designs

 Seen in a convenience store: Lipton varieties are already in a Halloween mood. Lipton goes through Morinaga in Japan.

森永 リプトン


Danone Oikos Yogurt for Halloween

Spotted this Halloween themed Danone Oikos Greek-Style yogurt in an convenience store.
ダノン ヨーグルト オイコス


Glico Highland Select Milk

Glico is probably best known for Pocky chocolate covered sticks, but they also have a big and growing dairy business.

Their premium milk series uses raw milk sourced from several select highland regions which are cool and very conducive to the production of high quality dairy. This product it is branded Glico Special Select Milk. The 5 areas used for sourcing are Zao Highland 蔵王高原 (Yamagata Prefecture), Nasu Highland 那須高原 (Tochigi Prefecture), Shinshu Highland 信州高原 (Nagano Prefecture), Ishimi Highland 石見高原 (Shimane Precture), and Aso Highland 阿蘇高原 (Kumamonto Prefecture), geographically located all over the main islands.

In these cool, highland areas, the quality of the milk is superior according to typical indicators such as fat content, solids not-fat content, bacterial count and cell count. When you buy this product, the sourcing of the milk you receive depends on which area is closest to you.

Key Words: Glico グリコ, Zao Highland 蔵王高原, Nasu Highland 那須高原, Shinshu Highland 信州高原 (Nagano Prefecture), Ishimi Highland 石見高原, and Aso Highland 阿蘇高原

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


McDonald's Tokyo 2020 Olympic Tumblers

How early is early? McDonald's Japan started giving away coffee tumblers (thermoses) with Mega Sets even before the Rio Olympics were over. With the theme Rio to Tokyo, the selections are as pictured above. I chose the checkered version shown to the right because I am a sucker for writing in Kanji and that one even has the year 2020 written in Kanji, something increasingly rare in general practice. Japanese people continue to see English, even nonsense English, as stylish, while I still see Kanji as much more visually pleasing than Western languages.

No indication as to when this promotion will end. I assume it will end far short of the 2020 Olympic opening ceremonies.


Key Words: McDonald's, tumbler, 2010 Olympics マックドナルド タンブラー オリンピック

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Coca Cola Georgia Cold Brew Coffee

The cold brewed coffee movement started about 5 years ago and has really taken off in the US. In Japan, Coca Cola is now offering a premium Georgia branded coffee in bottle shaped cans produced using the cold brewed method.

The cold brew method involves steeping ground coffee in room temperature or even chilled water. The result is a coffee with a different taste profile. Volatile compounds are not lost or degraded due to higher temperatures, but other compounds which are not as readily extracted from the beans might not be present.

Therefore, the premium price reflects not only marketing, but longer production time and the need to use 1.3 times as many coffee beans as regular coffee.

Key Words: Coca Cola, Georgia, Cold Brew Coffee コカ・コーラ ジョージア コールドブリューコーヒー

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Suntory Craft Select Beer Bar

Over the past few years, Suntory's Craft Select series has been introducing a consistent string of excellent beers - always interesting, frequently best in class. The current IPA is simply the best IPA I have ever tried. I also think the design using metallic colors is modern yet subdued and very attractive. These sell at a slight premium vs regular beer - 227 vs 217 yen per 350 ml can.

The current copy reads essentially, "When you gather with friends and drink Craft Select you can enjoy a different from what you normally drink, or in the home you can enjoy a different taste, that's BEER BAR". It does not really work in English, but of course the English "BEER BAR" is only used for decoration, not for meaning.

Key Words: Suntory, Craft Select, BEER BAR, IPA サントリー クラフトセレクト ビアBAR

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Grand Kirin Izayoi no Tsuki

Grand Kirin is Kirin's premium glass bottle beer, styled on craft beers. It is marketed as so delicious that one bottle is enough. Most of the varieties in this series are IPA beers.

The new Grand Kirin variety uses calypso hop and claims a mature or ripe fruit or citrus flavor. The name Izayoi no Tsuki means the moon phase just after the full moon, something associated with a hesitant, late rising moon. This phase is well known enough to be the name of a famous anime character.

Just today, I visited a convenience store and saw that the stock of this beer was completely sold out. So unfortunately, I cannot comment on the taste. I do however like the design, especially the IPA replacing one stoke in the Chinese character for moon.

Key Words: Grand Kirin, Izayoi no Tsuki, グランドキリン 十六夜の月

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


McDonald's Morning Mega Sets

Western-style indulgence has made it to the morning hours at McDonald's in Japan with the three Megasets.

You have the Mega McMuffin with with two pork patties, cheese, smoked bacon, and egg on a muffin coming in at 687 kcal, a Mega McGriddles with basically the same on a maple flavored syrup pancake bun coming in at 756 kcal, and finally a Double Filet-O-Fish with two fish patties delivering 482 kcal.

After this breakfast, you will have plenty of reason to be active the rest of the day.

Key Words: マックドナルド メガセット ダブルフィレオフィッシュ メガマックグリドル メガマフィン Mega McMuffin, Mega McGriddles, Double Filet-O-Fish, Mega Set, McDonald's

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Burger King Sourcing Chart (Part 2)

Thought I would finish up the McDonald's sourcing chart I started several days ago. Once again, the processing location is given in parentheses. No comments on any specific choices here, but it is interesting how decisions made based on price, reliability, safety, transportation costs, etc. result in the use of ingredients from 5 continents.

French Fries (Potatoes)                  US (US)  
Onion Rings (Onions)                     US (US)
Hash Browns (Potatoes)                US (US)  
Snack Chicken                                BR, JP (JP) BR = Brazil
Chicken Nuggets/Fried Chicken    TH (TH)
Cheese Bites (Cheese, Potatoes)   US (US)
Apple Pie (Apple)                             IT (JP) IT = Italy
Custard Pie (Egg)                             JP (JP)  
Pies (Flour)                                       US, CA, JP (JP)  
Frying Oil                                          IN (IN) IN = Indonesia
Cheese (Cheddar, Colby, Slice)      AU, NZ, UK, JP (AU, NZ, UK, JP)
Soft Cone (Milk)                                JP, AU, NZ (JP)  
Soft Cone (Flour)                              US, AU, JP (JP)  
Milk                                                    JP (JP)

Here is a link to the list (PDF)

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt in Shanghai

In Beijing and Shanghai these days, it is easier than ever to find Japanese food products. Convenience stores are usually your best bet for finding this items and despite the political friction between China and Japan, Japanese food brands sell at a premium due to reputations for high quality and safety standards. Here is a photo of Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt as it appears on the shelf of a Shanghai convenience store.

Key Words: Meiji Bulgaria Yogurt, China 明治ブルガリアヨーグルト 中国


Yamazaki Lunch Pack Tokachi Meat Bolognese

As part of the Lunch Pack series, Yamazaki has introduced a bolognese sandwich using beef from the Tokachi region of Hokkaido. The photo is just used to remind people where they are accustomed to seeing this sauce - on pasta. Although many Lunch Pack products do contain noodles, this one is simply sauce based.

Although I have not seen this product on the shelves and have not had a chance to try it, past experience tells me that this product will not be as overly rich as you might imagine. They are not just sticking spaghetti sauce in a sandwich, that would in no way suit Japanese tastes.

Key Words: Yamazaki, Lunch Pack, Tokachi, Hokkaido, Bolognese, ヤマザキ 山崎製パン ランチパック ボロネーゼ 十勝 北海道

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Japanese Infant Formula and China

Chinese customers continue to buy large quantities of European and Japanese infant formula while traveling abroad. This is most closely linked to the lingering distrust of the domestic industry following the melamine scandal of 2008 which reportedly affected upwards of 300,000 infants.

The result of Chinese demand in other countries is empty shelves and upset customers. That is the reason you see signs like this one (Japan) limiting purchases to 8 per person. Similar signs can be seen in European countries.

In a typical example of Japanese insensitivity, the notifications are only given in English and Chinese.


Haagen-Dazs Murasaki Imo Ice Cream

With product imagery as beautiful as always, Haagen-Dazs has introduced Murasaki Imo 紫いも or purple fleshed sweet potato ice cream. Murasaki imo is a regional favorite from southern Kyushu and it sweet enough to be eaten freshly baked, as is.

This product derives its color naturally from the ayamurasaki variety of murasaki imo which is high the anthocyanin color pigments.

Key Words: Haagen-Dazs, Murasaki Imo, Ayamurasaki, Purple Sweet Potato, anthocyanin, ハーゲンダッツ アヤムラサキ 紫いも アントシアニン

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Lotteria Wagyu Burger Series

Following up on the Kobe Beef burger I came across the other day, I looked back and found this Lotteria promotion from last year. It is a monthly rotation through 10 of the regional Japanese beef brands. This brings up an important point - while in outside Japan, Kobe Beef is the well known brand, within Japan, Wagyu or Japanese Beef is what people know and value. Within this Japanese Beef category there are many regional brands, only one of which is Kobe Beef. Therefore I think I will take this opportunity to introduce a few different Japanese beef brands as selected by Lotteria.

1) Kobe Beef 神戸牛 (Kobe City Area)
2) Bungo Beef 豊後牛 (Oita Prefecture)
3) Saga Beef 佐賀牛 (Saga Prefecture)
4) Hokkaido Beef 北海道和牛 (Hokkaido Prefecture)
5) Yamagata Beef 山形牛 (Yamagata Prefecture)
6) Sendai Beef 仙台牛 (Sendai City Area)
7) Tochigi Beef とちぎ和牛 (Tochigi Prefecture)
8) Hida Beef 飛騨牛 (Gifu Prefecture)
9) Matsusaka Beef 松阪牛 (Mie Prefecture)
10) Omi Beef 近江牛 (Shiga Prefecture)

Key Words: Lotteria, Kobe Beef, Japanese Beef, ロッテリア 神戸牛 和牛

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Asahi Super Dry Black Bar Style

Asahi Beer shot to number one in Japan on the back of Asahi Super Dry beer which was introduced in 1987. They have been riding the popularity of that beer for almost 3 decades now. In recent years, they have been pushing Dry Black as a new type of beer or an alternative to standard black or stout beers. They explain that the Dry Black has a more clear and less complicated taste. While many people drink stout beers exactly for that reason, Asahi is trying to show how this clear taste can be used in new ways.

Super Dry Black Bar Style promotes starting with a glass of ice, adding Asahi Super Dry Black and topping it off with a slice of citrus and mint.

The suggested variations are as follows:
Lemon Black
Lime Black
Orange Black
Sudachi Black (sudachi is a Japanese citrus fruit)
Pink Grapefruit Black
as well as non-citrus variations
Wilkinson Shandy Black (a shandy made with Wilkinson carbonated soda also sold by Asahi)
Double Cultured Black (with added Calpis, an Asahi subsidiary)
Cafe Black (with coffee)
Cinnamon Black
Almond Black

Certainly something new to try at least once, but oddly, I don't see it on the menu of the Asahi beer hall in Tokyo.

Key Words: Asashi Super Dry, Dry Black, Bar Style スーパードライ ドライブラック バースタイル

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Burger King Sourcing Chart

Tractability and ingredient sourcing have become concerns worldwide. In Japan, incidents involving imported ingredients have been the main cause for increased consumer attention. Burger King Japan has posted a chart of the origin and processing locations for all their ingredients and components. Here I give the translation of the first half of the chart. The processing location is in parentheses.

Whopper Patty        AU, NZ (AU)
Burger Patty           AU, NZ (AU)
Chicken Patty         TH (TH) TH = Thailand
Snack Chicken       JP, BR (JP) BR = Brazil
Fish Patty                US, RU (TH)
Pork Patty               US (US)
SPAM                       US (US)
Hot Dog Sausage    US, CA, JP (JP)
Bacon                       US (US)
Bologna Sausage    US, CA, AU (JP)
Roast Pork               US, CA (JP)
Buns                         US, CA (JP)
Tomato                     US, KR, JP  KR = Korea
Onion                       JP, US (JP)
Lettuce                    JP, US, TW (JP) TW = Taiwan
Salad                       JP, US, TW (JP) TW = Taiwan
Avocado                  PE (PE)  PE = Peru
Pickles                     LK (JP) LK = Sri Lanka
Lemon                      US

I will summarize the second half in a few days, but just looking at the distance traveled of the ingredients of a fast food meal is certainly interesting.

Here is a link to the list (PDF)

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Burger King Double King Sets

Burger King Japan is offering Double King (TM) sets which center on pork patty burgers which something added to make it a filling meal. One addition has just been made so there are 4 options:
1) Double BBQ - two pork patties, fresh vegetables, smokey BBQ sauce
2) Hash & Cheese - pork patty, hash brown patty, cheese, pepper Caesar sauce
3) Monster Baby (TM) - pork patty, spicy hot chicken patty, fresh vegetables, teriyaki sauce
and a one new offering that does not have a pork patty
4) Double Chicken with Tartar - two chicken patties, fresh vegetables, tartar sauce.

These items are 390 yen alone, or 490 yen as a set (drink and fries). All fast food chains push have been pushing limited offerings and sets as a counter to the obligatory cheap menu items that get people in the door.

Key Words: Burger King, Double King, バーガーキング ダブルバーベキュー ハッシュ&チーズ モンスターベビー ダブルタルタル

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Lotteria Kobe Beef Burger

Although I do not see this being advertised anywhere, when I went to a Lotteria in Ginza recently, they had Kobe Beef burgers for sale. There was a rotating series of Japanese regional beef burgers at Lotteria from 2014 to 2015, but not only is this not noted anywhere on the website, but it is a bit more reasonable than the Kobe Beef burger 2 years ago. It was 1,500 yen/ burger two years ago, but is "only" 1,000 yen now. Of course the question remains, why take a luxury premium beef and grind it up as hamburger meat. It is definately an interesting promotion though.
Key words; Lotteria, Kobe beef, ロッテリア 神戸牛


Morinaga Philadelphia Cream Cheese Slices

This variation on the 130 year old Philadelphia cheese brand was developed in Japan. Morinaga has worked to produce a cream cheese which creamy, yet melts at a higher temperature making it viable as a sliced cheese variety. Their solution was to create 3-layer cheese slices where Philadelphia cream cheese is sandwiched between cheddar cheese slices (the same as regular Kraft slices). The resulting combination is twice as thick as regular slices. At 4 combined slices per pack, that roughly equals in thickness (and I assume weight) the standard 8 regular slice packs.

This is being described as luxurious alternative to standard sliced cheese and Japan's first three layer cheese slices.

Key Words: Morinaga, Philadelphia cream cheese, Kraft, cheddar cheese 森永, フィラデルフィア クラフト チェダー

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Fish Bone Tempura

As can be seen in this photo from a recent night eating with coworkers, it is not uncommon to have fried fish bones be served as part of a tempura set. In fact, fried eel bones are something of a special item. The bones become brittle and crispy when fried and the addition of a little salt makes them quite good.

However, despite eating many small fish whole and frying the bones of larger fish, the traditional Japanese diet does not contain adequate amounts of calcium, which is why the Japan Dairy Association is promoting the combination of dairy with the traditional Japanese diet in a program called New Washoku, where "nyu" or "new" can be written as dairy in Japanese and "washoku" means Japanese cuisine.
てんぷら 乳和食


FamilyMart UNY Group Merger Fallout

Details of what will happen to storefronts following the merger anouncement of Japan's 3rd and 4th largest convenience store chains. Since convenience stores are everywhere in Japan and since getting into convenience stores is very important for food brands, this is big news.

Rankings before the merger by store count:
7-Eleven 18,860
Lawson 12,537
FamilyMart 11,872
Circle K-Sunkus 6,251

Following merger
7-Eleven 18,860
FamilyMart (Circle K-Sunkus) 18,123
Lawson 12,537

However 1,000 of the Circle K-Sunkus stores will be closed or will be moved, due to business conditions or proximity to FamilyMart stores.

The final goal of the reorganization is to have all the stores branded as FamilyMart by February of 2019.

My thoughts: It will be sad to see Circle K-Sunkus go. As the 4th place player, they have always worked to provide very different selections and new ideas to compete with the big guys. Three dominant chains provides a degree of competition, but you can already see the selection at 7-Eleven becoming very predictable if not boring.


Morinaga Uruou Glucosamine Drink

As one of its home delivery offerings, Morinaga has introduced a functional drink aimed at joint health and general health in the middle age and older consumer category. Uruou Glucosamine Drink うるおうグルコサミン. Uruou 潤う・うるおう means wet or moist, but can also convey the meaning smooth as in smooth joint movement. It also contains the meaning, "to benefit from", therefore it pops up in product names and copy from time to time.

The copy for the product states "for everyday movement, walking and health (power) support". Morinaga provides this in the form of a yogurt flavored drink including 4 functional ingredients. These are the following:
1) glucosamine (1,500 mg) - an amino-sugar or aminoglucoside are naturally occurring in the body, but for supplementation are derived from crustaceans and shellfish. It is found in bone, cartilage and joint fluid. The idea is that glucosamines which have been broken down and are easily taken in by the body help in forming new cartilage and in supporting joint health. As I understand it the jury is still out on the effectiveness of glucosamine.
2) collagen (1,000 mg) - collagen if found in cartilage, skin and connective tissue. Low molecular weight collagen (easy to absorb) is very popular in Japan for perceived beauty and health benefits. Collagen is a major component of cartilage and therefore the reasoning is similar to the above. Once again, research is ongoing but the appeal is clear.
3) hyaluronic acid (5 mg) - another component of healthy skin, cartilage and joints. Therefore ditto on all of the above. Both collagen and hyaluronic acid are found in body tissue that requires adequate fluid content and elasticity, thus both skin and joint tissue.
4) Shield Lactic Acid Bacteria M-1 - this is a probiotic strain developed by Morinaga which has high heat resistance and boasts improved immune function in test subjects. This effect is not joint related, but instead targets the same audience - people who are aging and suffering joint problems are probably also increasing concerned about immune function (ability to resist infection, colds, the flu, etc.).

In summary, this product throws in several components of healthy joints with the assumption that they will be used by the body to maintain healthy joints, and then adds in a proprietary probiotic for general health maintenance.

The appeal of this type of product is obvious, it checks a lot of boxes and is readily understandable for people in the market for such ingredients. It is also delivered to the door several times a week. The added benefit for companies is that no new scientific data needs to be generated.

Key words: Morinaga, home delivery, glucosamine, collagen, hyaluronic acid, Shield Lactic Acid Bacteria M-1, probiotic, Japan, 森永 宅配 グルコサミン コラーゲン ヒアルロン酸 シールド乳酸菌M-1プロバイオティクス

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


MegMilk Snow Brand Cream Sweets

MegMilk Snow Brand is celebrating 40 years of its Cream Sweets line. As can be seen from this timeline, the formulation has been tinkered with over the years and the shape of the packaging has changed, but it is still basically coffee jelly with cream on top. Along the way they did introduce a Japanese-style pudding, what looks to be cream on sweet jelly and a few brand crossovers. However, this brand and series is most closely associated with cream and coffee jelly.

I know Japanese who make big batches of coffee jelly at home claiming that it helps keep one regular. I have seen this noted several places, but I know of no real evidence for this.

Nov. 22nd will be Cream Sweets day and lots of communications and information will be made available on the website.

Key Words: MegMilk Snow Brand, Coffee Jelly, Cream Sweets 雪印メグミルク コピーゼリー クリームスイーツ

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Meiji Sanrio Campaign Collaboration

Meiji and Sanrio (the Hello Kitty company) are collaborating on a campaign where Sanrio characters appear on various chocolate and confectionery products, and there is a daily giveaway of Sanrio branded goods via the internet. Not a big follower of Sanrio, but this promotion focuses on four groups of Sanrio characters: Shingancrimson, Plasmagica Yogulemons, and Maple Beat Punch. The first two of these are anime bands that actually appear on TV and release singles and the second two are anime bands formed from members of the Sanrio character stable. Just to be clear, these are animated singing groups created and I assume owned by Sanrio. It is easy to look up the current group of cute young girls who actually do the singing, but I assume they can be rotated in and out as necessary. As you might know, Japan pioneered the concept of completely animated pop groups starting with Hatsune Miku in 2007.

For this campaign, purchase does not appear to be necessary. People can submit entries up to once a day to be eligible for the daily prizes which consist of Sanrio anime band branded QUO digital money cards and waterproof smartphone neck straps.

Key Words: Meiji, Sanrio, Shingancrimsonz, Plasmagica, Yogulemons, Maple Beat Punch, Hatsune Miku, Japan, chocolate, confectionery 明治 サンリオ プラズマジカ シンガンクリムゾンズ ヨーグレモンズ メープルビートパンチ 日本 チョコ 菓子 初音ミク

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


MOS Burger Tobikiri Lettuce and Tomato

 MOS Burger has had a line of special "Tobikiri" とびきり or "choice" burgers. All selections in this line use a "golden ratio" 黄金比率 of 100% Japanese pork and beef to produce the perfectly juicy burger. This incarnation uses fresh tomato and lettuce along with half-calorie mayonnaise and a tomato-vinegar sauce.
Key Words: MOS Burger, Tobikiri Burger, Japan, Food, モスバーガー とびきりバーガー 日本 食品 料理

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


McDonald's Tsukimi Burger 25 Years

For 25 years, this seasonal favorite has been a hit in Japan. There is always a big ad campaign and people seem to sincerely look forward to it. Tsukimi 月見 means moon viewing and the name comes from the round shaped sunny side up fried egg which forms the essential element of this burger. You might also note the rabbit image by the moon. This comes from Japanese traditionally having an image of a rabbit on the moon, instead of the western man in the moon. This comes from the Japanese fairy-tale Tsuki no Usagi 月の兎 or Moon Rabbit.

This year's varieties are the regular Tsukimi Burger (egg, slab of bacon), Tsukimi Burger with Cheese, and the Full Moon Tsukimi Burger with Cheese (ham slice instead of bacon, a tomato based sauce aurore, and buttery, fluffy, round moon-shaped buns made with fresh cream).
マックドナルド 月見バーガー

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Nestle KitKat Pumpkin Pudding

Nestle is bringing back a seasonal favorite for Halloween. As it states in the copy "both kids and adults love pumpkin pudding", so that is the flavor for this holiday. There are 13 individually wrapped chocolate bars per package. Although not shown, there are 6 different Halloween designs for the small individual packages. Nothing wrong with this, but it does sound a tad strange. Since there are 6 designs and 13 items per pack, which means 2 each of 5 designs and 3 of the remaining design? Sounds like this would add unnecessary complexity to the production process, but I suppose Nestle knows what they are doing.
ネスレ キットカット パンプキンプリン

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Tombow Kanazawa Curry Cola

There is an ongoing local gourmet food craze in Japan. One of the popular local dishes is Kanazawa Curry. Tombow Beverage of Toyama Prefecture has taken this one step further by introducing a Kanazawa Curry flavored cola. Not available in my area - maybe that is just as well.
トンボ飲料 金沢カレー コーラ

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Burger King Chicken Fries

Burger King Japan has added Chicken Fries to its lineup, which are described as crispy and convenient to handle with an excellent balance of herbs and spices. These come with a choice of BBQ or honey-mustard sauces. The website offers a download so that you can decorate the chicken face on the package to look like various characters: Kabuki, Shogun, Ninja, Sumo and Manga. Some boxes also carry the slogan "Unleash the Chicken".
バーガーキング 日本 チキンフライ

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


KFC Salty Lime Chicken

As a variation on their boneless chicken, KFC now has a salty lime offering. There is not all that much added information, but a refreshing taste is followed by a spicy aftertaste, which appears to explain the lime, salt and pepper in the photo. ケンタッキーフライドチキン ソルティライムチキン

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.


Lotteria Meat Day

For Lotteria the 29th is "Niku no Hi" 肉の日 or "Meat Day", because the number 29 can be read with the same pronunciation as meat "niku". For three days, the weekend plus the 29th, Lotteria is offering special versions of its premium burger, the zeppin burger 絶品バーガー or "masterpiece burger". The special versions consist of burger patties containing 1.5 percent more meat, double the amount of cheese (two slices of cheese made from Gouda and red cheddar), and extra chewy buns made with yeast cultured in rice malt 酒種. And for those who really need a meat rush, there is double patty version.

Photo is a web capture for explanatory purposes, copyright belongs to the company.