Posts Tagged ‘mochi’

Trends in Japan 2010: food and drink

Friday, December 31st, 2010

This year’s hottest product, quite literally, was taberu rayu, a spicy sauce that made it into the top keywords of the year and even beat smart phones to the top spot of Nikkei Trendy’s hit product list for 2010. Back in July we reported on how the chili-infused condiment, which contains minced onion and garlic, had gone from a foodie novelty to one of the Japan’s hottest new sauces in just under a year. Figuring out that it tasted delicious on burgers, big-name brands like Mos Burger picked up the trend and ran with it. The chain’s crunchy rayu burger, designed by Terry Ito, was a huge hit this summer.

Sales of All-Free were suspended in August due to high demand

Japan’s unusually hot summer was cited as part of the reason behind the taberu rayu craze (spicy food is said to be cooling in hot weather), and other brands profited from the sweltering temperatures as well. Stocks of Japan’s favorite retro ice lolly Garigari-kun were dangerously low at one point during the summer, causing makers to officially apologize to disappointed customers. Suntory also found it hard to keep up with demand for their new All-Free non alcoholic low calorie beer, and in August, according to Daily Yomiuri, were forced to temporarily suspend sales until September.

One of the more unusual food trends to break over the summer was the new Tokyo-based fad for chowing down on a big bowl of ramen noodle broth for breakfast. The idea is for busy workers to stock up on calories ahead of a grueling day, enabling them to either skip lunch or grab a small snack on the fly during the day. While the number of restaurants serving ramen has increased in recent years, the trend hasn’t quite reached epidemic proportions yet. The idea of morning mochi provided an attractive alternative to those seeking a seeking a hearty breakfast at home: Marushin’s Good Morning Breakfast Mochi, launched in April this year, proved much more popular than the company initially expected with sales figures 180 percent higher than the company’s typical mochi sales.

On the marketing end of things, dozens of companies tried to cash in the Ryoma Sakamoto boom, spurred by the popularity of the yearlong NHK taiga drama “Ryomanden.” Be it associated with burgers, soft drinks, ramen chips, curry, or beer — the face of the legendary samurai was everywhere.

Dining out continued to get cheaper during 2010 as izakaya scrambled to outdo each other with cut-price deals. The biggest gimmick of 2010 was offering free drinks of shochu to get customers through the doors. Another gimmick, which isn’t so new but was in full effect during 2010, was the use of cute young girls to entice male custom. We’re not only talking about Hooters’ arrival in Japan, which opened its doors for the first time this year in Japan but other establishments such as Katsuyama Dojo Style Pub and Nadeshico Sushi, which also entered the restaurant market: Both establishments hired bevies of cute girls to serve food to, mostly likely, an exclusively male clientele.

Morning mochi makes waves

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

Mochi cakes, image courtesy of Kropsoq at Wikicommons

Top of the mochi to you

Breakfast used to mean one of two things in Japan: either the traditional time-consuming but stomach-filling option of rice, side dishes and miso soup, or the quicker option of couple of slices of toast and jam wolfed down before dashing out the door. This summer, a product that is as quick to prepare as toast but as filling as rice has proven to be a big hit. Since the product went on sale in April, sales of Marushin’s Good Morning Breakfast Mochi have risen so much that they’re now up 180 percent up from the company’s typical annual mochi sales.

Mochi, a sticky cake made from pounded rice, is a traditionally a New Year’s treat, but the dish has now found a new lease of life as a breakfast food. The idea is that rice is easy to digest, and mochi is a great source of energy and easy to prepare: All you need to do is to zap it quickly in the microwave before tucking in. The Good Morning Breakfast Mochi is 20 percent thinner than normal mochi cakes so that it’ll take less time to cool down – like tofu, the dense foodstuff retains heat much longer than a slice of toast.

The mochi boom follows on from other breakfast fads that have recently swept the nation. Last year saw the nation embracing the curry breakfast (as recommended by baseball superstar Ichiro) and this year we reported on the trend of office workers who chose to slurp down bowls of ramen for brekkie. Rather than simply eating the cake plain, Marushin’s website encourages customers to experiment with quick and easy, if deeply weird, recipes such as mochi pizza or mochi with chilli topping.

According to Nikkei Trendy, the easy-to-prepare product was launched with young singletons in mind but become a a hit with kids, perhaps because the squishy and Play Doh-like consistency of the mochi. The company has decided to see if they can cash in further on the boom by launching a new mochi snack aimed at students studying hard into the night. Bearing in mind the fact that every year a number of people choke to death on New Year’s mochi cakes, we’re wondering whether parents will be as keen to allow their kids to chow down unsupervised on mochi at night.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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