Creativity, child-friendliness behind successful products from Japanese penny candy maker
YAO, Osaka – ‘Puchi Puchi Uranai’, a chocolate product that comes in the form of a sheet of bubble wrap that tells a fortune for each candy, is perfect for someone worried about the new fiscal year and school from April. To learn more about the product, the Mainichi Shimbun visited its manufacturer in this western Japanese city.
The journalists were greeted by Kenji Fukui, 62, vice president of Japanese “dagashi” candy maker Chirin Confectionery Co., as well as Munetoshi Yamamoto, 50, head of the project planning and development department, and Kaori Kosuga, 45, head of the business planning section. room with shelves filled with sweets.
Puchi Puchi Uranai was released in 1985 and over 390 million items have been sold. The sheets containing several sugar-coated chocolates bear words such as ‘health’, ‘wishes’ and ‘future’, and when you pull out the candies, it reveals how lucky you are in each category: excellent, good, normal. or bad – using symbols. Besides chocolate, the product comes in strawberry milk flavor and ramune soda flavor.
Apparently, “God only knows” how the product indicates your fortune, but each sheet has slightly different categories” for example ‘oshaburi’ (pacifier) instead of ‘oshaberi’ (communication)”, says Yamamoto. He also described that there are sheets on which the “jump” category appears, telling consumers how lucky they will be to jump.
He says the categories are made to look like a joke because they want kids who are feeling down amid the coronavirus pandemic to have a good laugh. There are even super lucky cards that reveal a “big” for all categories.
To cheer up the mood for kids who have no choice but to stay home during the pandemic, Yamamoto and others also came up with the idea and started selling a home candy kit called “Ouchi of Dagashiya”.
The kit comes with a cardboard candy shop with a shelf to display products, cardboard money and 21 kinds of 42 candies, allowing children to play dagashi shop. There is no need for scissors or glue when assembling the kit, and the cardboard is treated to prevent people from cutting their hands with it. You can also stock the shelves with snacks already at home.
Yamamoto is also behind another successful product called “Unchoko”, which is a pun for poo and chocolate in Japanese, and over 38.2 million products have been sold since its launch in 2010. You first place the grape-flavored chocolates in a paper container in the shape of an animal, and take them out of a hole on its backside. The color of chocolate decides your fortune. A total of 312 kinds of products have been sold in the past, including those that have collaborated with popular characters.
Chirin Confectionery was founded in 1928 in the city of Osaka and moved to the city of Yao in 1955. The company is named after the sound of a small clink of coins – “charin” in Japanese. It carries the hope that the company can sell delicious and fun candies that children can buy with spare change at any time. “It is the company’s wish to make sweets that not only satisfy the appetite but also the heart,” Fukui said.
Puchi Puchi Uranai chocolates, which you can get for around 20 yen (about 16 cents) are sugar-coated using traditional craftsmanship to prevent them from melting easily, and are round and shiny. Even when you’re not doing so well in life or with makeshift chocolates, eating sweets and feeling the spring breeze can lift your mood.
When the 8% consumption tax was raised to 10% in October 2019, whether to apply a reduced tax rate on penny candies became an issue. Among Chirin confectionery products, items presented in containers that imitate beer mugs or liquor bottles are subject to an 8% tax rate, while those presented in containers that can also be used as whistles or Compasses are subject to a 10% tax rate – as a “bonus” part is considered valuable.
Having two different tax rates may confuse children and stores, so Chirin Confectionary introduced products including a pipe-shaped product called “Go Go Paipo Choko”. Although the container also looks like a whistle, a sticker is attached to the hole to prevent it from making noise. Although you may hear a sound when blowing into the container after removing the sticker, this should be considered “mere coincidence”. Fukui explained, “Since you can’t use it as a whistle, it’s just a container.”
(Japanese original by Satoko Suizu, Osaka Editorial Production Center)