November 11 is Pocky Day, a day for celebrating the famous chocolate-covered stick treats that have come to represent Japan in the eyes of the world. The special day is because of the way the date 11/11 looks like four Pocky sticks lined up together. To celebrate, J-List has brought back many of our favorite chocolate products in stock, including Pocky, Japanese Kit Kat, Lotte Crunky chocolate bars, Meltykiss and more. Enjoy the new stock as chocolate returns to J-List, or just grab our latest J-List Box snack box!
COVID-19 Has Been Hard on the Japanese Chocolate Industry
2020 has been a terrible year for all of us, but as a business owner, I think a lot about the special challenges faced by the companies J-List works with, and the businesses I personally frequent. While some companies have fared well — like J-List, thanks to already being a digitally-focused online retailer with staff collaborating together from three continents, plus our amazingly supportive customers — other businesses were hard hit, especially retail establishments and restaurants.
What made it worse for the many owners of bars and restaurants in Japan was that they had just spent a significant amount to remodel their bathrooms and add features like English menus in anticipation of millions of foreign visitors and tourists from the Tokyo Olympics…only to have the exact reverse happen, as the number of foreign tourists dried up to zero.
Another industry hard-hit by the COVID-19 economic disruption has been Japanese chocolate makers like Nestle, Glico and Meiji. Before this year, these companies were blessed with not only strong demand from Japanese consumers, but an endless stream of foreign tourists from Asia, Europe and North America who would buy Japanese chocolates and take them home as gifts. Tourists from mainland China were especially beneficial to Japan’s economy, arriving in droves and “explosively buying” (爆買い baku-gai) all the snacks and other high-quality products on retailer’s shelves to take home with them.
Now the tourist chocolate trade has crashed as monthly visitors from outside Japan went from nearly 3 million at the peak in July 2019 down to just 13,000 for September 2020, a drop of 99.4% if you’re keeping count. As a result, factories owned by Nestle and Glico and the other Japanese chocolate makers are operating at only around 20% of capacity.
The History of Pocky
Pocky was created in 1966 by the Ezaki Glico’s Confectionery Corporation, the company perhaps most famous for the “running Glico man” sign in Osaka. Like all good companies, Glico has some interesting stories associated with it. Here are some random facts to consider this Pocky Day!
- The name Pocky comes from the ポッキ pokki!, the sound you hear when you break a Pocky stick in half.
- In Europe, Pocky is usually sold under the name Mikado. This is a somewhat archaic title for the Japanese Emperor.
- Pocky first emerged in 1966, as a convenient way to eat chocolate without getting it on your finger. Almond Pocky came along in 1971, and Strawberry Pocky in 1977.
- Glico gets its name from glycogen, which company founder Riichi Ezaki researched as a way to improve the health of Japanese children, in the aftermath of the death of Mr. Ezaki’s own son due to the poor nutrition of the age.
- The Glico running man signifies that Glico’s first products, a box of caramels released in 1922, provides enough calories to run a 100-meters dash.
- In 1984, Japan was gripped with terror when Glico president Katsuhisa Ezaki was kidnapped and held for $4 million random, though he managed to escape. Afterwards both Glico and Morinaga faced extortion by a criminal group who claimed to have placed cyanide inside the companys’ products, causing mass recalls. Both crimes remain unsolved.
Thanks for reading our post on Pocky Day and the history of Pocky, as well as how Japanese chocolate manufacturers have been getting along in the age of Corona.
Today, November 11, is Pocky Day, a day to celebrate Pocky, since 11/11 looks like four sticks of Pocky lined up. J-List is celebrating by announcing the return of chocolate to our site, with lots of fun Pocky, Meltykiss, Crunky, Japanese Kit Kat, and other popular chocolate products, which are removed from the site during the hot summer months. Browse our awesome Japanese chocolate products today, or pick up the new J-List Box snack box for November!