Now there’s something else to look forward to when opening a tub of ice cream.
Häagen-Dazs Japan has been tantalising frozen dessert lovers over the years with exclusive flavors like Chestnut and Adzuki Red Bean, Salty Vanilla and Caramel and even a couple of vegetable varieties. Now they’ve discovered a brand new way to get everyone’s attention, and this time it’s all about looks, with the shape of the ice cream in the tub taking center stage and different names given to the special markings, which are all centered around the love-heart concept.
▼ The new campaign is called “Häagen Heart Hunting”.
The idea for the fun new marketing plan came about after the company’s creative team tested 1,000 mini ice cream tubs to find what types of shapes naturally appear on the surface after opening the lid. After discovering the shape of a perfect heart in 2 of the 1,000 tubs, it was decided that the other designs could be seen as variations of the love-heart pattern, giving birth to a series of eleven “heart” shapes.
▼ The most coveted marking is the “Clear Heart”, which was found in only two of the 1,000 tubs.
▼ Also found in only two of the tubs tested was the “Kiss Heart”, which looks like a set of lips, and is said to bring the promise of romance to anyone who finds it.
▼ Another unique pattern, found in 2.1 percent of samples, is the “Goodbye Heart”, which is divided in the middle, suggesting it’s time to say goodbye and step forward anew.
▼ At 3.6 percent is the “Baby Heart”, which includes a small crater companion, and is said to bring happiness and new encounters.
▼ A more common shape is the “Incipient Heart” (7.7 percent), which is just on the verge of taking on a heart-shaped form, like love about to blossom.
▼ The “Tears Heart” (10.4 percent) features a central tear, suggesting something will move your heart in the near future.
▼ The “Cheating Heart” (11.1 percent) is bulging out on one side, which can be taken to mean that something may happen to disturb you a little bit.
▼ More common is the “Gaping Hole Heart” (15.3 percent), which features a floating circle on the surface. Those who come across this shape are said to feel a slight sense of dissatisfaction with the everyday. Which could explain the reason for eating ice cream in the first place…
▼ And the most common of all, at 26.5 percent, is the “Smile Heart”, which suggests something lovely will happen to make you smile unexpectedly.
▼ Out of all the hearts in the collection, there are two super rare varieties: the “Positive Heart” which is raised on the surface and has the promise of positivity. It’s said to appear in only 0.1 percent of tubs.
▼ And the “Perfect Heart”, which is said to make rare, phantom-like appearances, as the most rarefied and beautiful version of the “Clear Heart”. Those who come across a beauty like this are believed to receive incredible happiness.
Ice cream lovers in Japan have embraced the fun nature of the campaign, posting photos of their findings on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram
Häagen-Dazs Japan has announced another tantalizing new flavor, and we’re already wondering what the combination of dairy and honey will taste like!
Yes, their new mini cup ice cream flavor, scheduled to be released on April 19th at supermarkets and convenience stores across Japan, is going to be “Honey and Milk(Yogurt-style).”
So, does that make this product a yogurt-like ice cream or an ice cream-like yogurt? Well, whichever it is, honey and milk has to be a winning combination, right?
According to the product description on the company’s website, the mini cup Honey and Milk is made of a rich milk-based ice cream prepared with a “yogurt-like flavor” and mixed with a subtly sweet honey sauce. It actually contains heat-sterilized fermented milk, giving it the sour-yet-refreshing taste of yogurt. Add honey sauce to that and the result is bound to be delightful, especially considering how tasty actual yogurt and honey are together!
The Honey and Milk ice cream will come in a 110 milliliter (3.7 ounce) cup at a price of 294 yen (US$2.59).
Chef Yasumasa Takagi is hard at work. With a furrowed brow and a meditative air, he stands at his kitchen worktop and surveys a row of glass jars, each containing a rainbow-hued ingredient – green pistachio paste, pink strawberry powder, yellow yuzu citrus fruit. He sprinkles deep-pink raspberry powder into a bowl containing melted white chocolate, before dipping bite-size wafers into the mix and ceremoniously placing them inside a small mould.
The scene unfolding in the kitchen at the back of his upmarket Tokyopatisserie may seem fairly standard for the famed creator of luxury artisan sweets. But closer inspection reveals that the chef is making something perhaps more ordinary than imagined, for he is, in fact, experimenting with flavors for one of the world’s most popular chocolate bars: the humble KitKat.
Few could dispute Britain’s enduring love of – and appetite for – the iconic wafer-finger bar. Launched 80 years ago by Rowntree’s, and touted as the workman’s perfect companion to a cup of tea, KitKat revolutionised the nation’s biscuit-loving society and within two years was a bestseller. Now it is sold in more than 100 countries; 700 KitKat fingers are reportedly consumed every second (totalling 22 billion a year), according to its current owners, Nestlé.
But there is one country in particular, 6,000 miles from its English origins, that stands out in its reverence for KitKat – namely Japan.
Since the first KitKat went on sale there in 1973, the nation has embraced it, making it one of its top-selling chocolate brands. While Japan’s KitKat retail sales are a fraction of the UK’s – Y17 billion in 2014, equivalent to £96 million compared to the UK’s £243 million – they have risen steadily since 2011, in contrast to a decline for the past two years in the UK, according to market-intelligence firm Euromonitor.
Such success is clearly tied to the country’s penchant for weird and wonderful flavours – 300-plus exotic varities have been created, from wasabi to melon. Then there are the quirky initiatives: the postable KitKat with a space on the wrapper for messages, the KitKat-cum-train ticket, the KitKat croissant…
KitKat is regarded as a premium confectionery brand in Japan – as reflected in its KitKat Chocolatory stores. Since the launch of the first of these branded boutiques in Tokyo in January last year, a further seven have opened across the country, attracting nearly one million customers, who have spent close to Y2 billion (£10.9 million-according to current exchange rate) on luxury KitKat confectionery masterminded by Chef Takagi.
How has a nation more famed for its appetite for sushi than sweet treats, not to mention its perfectionism in terms of quality and presentation, become one of the protagonists of the KitKat world? The story begins, it seems, with a stroke of luck that is the stuff of marketing dreams: KitKat sounds similar to the Japanese phrase kitto katsu: ‘you will surely win’.
The impact of its fortuitous name became clear around 14 years ago, when Nestlé noticed surging sales every January as customers bought KitKats as good-luck presents for students sitting university entrance exams. Tapping into this trend, Nestlé collaborated with Japan Post to launch the postable KitKat in 2009 – resulting in about half of the nation’s 600,000 annual exam-sitting students now receiving the chocolate for good luck every year. The customer-led initiative is one of a string of innovations that have meant the Japanese KitKat bears little resemblance to its UK counterpart, according to Ryoji Maki, marketing manager for confectionery at Nestlé Japan. ‘We had to differentiate the brand from the start when we realised that the global slogan, “Have a break, have a KitKat”, does not have the same meaning to the Japanese.’
A clue as to just how big the gap is between KitKat in Japan and the UK can be seen on a recent Thursday morning in the basement food hall of the department store Daimaru in Tokyo. A steady stream of people pause in front of the Kitkat Chocolatory concession, which is hard to miss with its red wall of KitKat motifs and sparkling red chandelier fashioned from KitKat moulds. ‘It’s busier at other times,’ says shop worker Mariko Suto, 28, in a cap and striped apron. ‘Queues can last 30 minutes at the weekend.’
Luxury KitKat creations by Chef Takagi take centre stage, among them the decadent single-finger Sublime range, which includes ingredients such as raspberry-infused 66 per cent dark chocolate (Y324). Orange Cocktail Noir, a heady mix of orange-scented chocolate and rum powder mixed into the wafer layers, sits alongside Sakura Green Tea, containing Uji tea leaves and powdered cherry-leaf extract (both Y432).
Kenichi Seimiya, a 47-year-old sales and marketing executive, sweeps in and chooses four Special boxes in minutes before presenting his gold credit card for the Y3,672 (£20) bill. As staff gift-wrap the chocolates, he says, ‘I’m going on a business trip next week to Malaysia and Thailandand I need to bring some gifts. KitKat is very famous and the flavours available here are popular outside Japan.’
Another customer, Noriko Inomata, 46, a chic television presenter, takes her time perusing. ‘I came here today because this morning my husband gave me a Sublime chocolate – and I was so surprised at how delicious it was. I had to come and have a look.’
Takagi rustles up such creations several miles across the city at Le Patissier Takagi in Aoyama, a neighbourhood famed for its fashion flagships and high-end eateries. Here, as well-heeled locals tuck into aromatic teas and carefully crafted cakes in the cafe, Takagi explains his unlikely union with Nestlé. ‘At first I refused, because I was approached by many different companies with offers and I wanted to keep my independence. But they were very convincing.’
Key to Takagi’s acceptance was the agreement that his creations would represent the most exclusive end of KitKat Japan. He set to work in his kitchen – which, as he later demonstrates, involves measuring samples (no colourings or artificial flavourings) into bowls of chocolate, before testing them on wafers.
In 2005 his first creation – a passion-fruit KitKat – was selected by Nestlé from 30 new flavours submitted by the chef, with dozens more following since, including plum, passion fruit and chilli, ginger and kinako soybean powder. ‘The challenge is how to make something handmade out of an industrial brand,’ he says. ‘The KitKat has three perimeters: the chocolate, the wafer and the cream. The chocolate and cream are where we can be most creative. For me, my goals are the same as in my work as a patissier. I want to surprise people, I want to make them happy and I want to somehow create an emotional reaction. I’m always looking for new textures and new flavours.’
When asked about the less successful flavours, he ponders briefly. ‘Watermelon is too light. And chestnuts, sweet potatoes and pumpkins are very difficult as their taste is too soft to mix with chocolate.’ His face brightening, he adds, ‘I’d like to do Kyoto pickles next.’
Despite KitKat Japan’s luxury innovations, its successes are not confined to the high-end. Hidden among the heaving shelves of the Shinjuku, Tokyo, outlet of Don Quijote, a 24-hour bargain- store chain, a basement corner appears to have been transformed into a KitKat shrine – with rows of special-offer treats, from rum and raisin flavour to sweet potato.
Yuuma Hirata, the floor manager, says, ‘Lots of Chinese tourists come here, also Koreans and Europeans, to pick up bags of KitKat. The most popular are the matcha green tea – it’s the balance between bitter green tea and chocolate, a good taste for foreigners.’
A short distance away in the calmer confines of Pronto coffee shop near Shibuya station, customers are enjoying KitKat croissants. Available in chocolate, sweet potato and green-tea varieties, the Y180 (£1) pastry, which contains a two-finger KitKat, was introduced in September. It has sold out daily since then according to Pronto, which has 300 cafes across Japan.
The croissant joins a string of KitKat innovations. A KitKat that doubles as a train ticket was launched last year with Sanriku Railway in northeastern Tohoku to support regional recovery following the 2011 tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster. Then there is the e-commerce store, with customers able to customise KitKat packets with photographs and messages for parties and weddings. KitKat Japan is showing no signs of slowing down: this month, it is launching a run of 500 luxurious KitKats covered in gold leaf.
Even the size of normal KitKats are different in Japan (there are six little fingers rather than four). It is the country’s unconventional relationship with chocolate that enables such innovations to flourish, according to Alex Villela, the French business executive manager for confectionery at Nestlé Japan. ‘Chocolate is a very recent concept in Japan,’ he explains, at the press launch of the eighth Chocolatory boutique in Tokyo’s Takashimaya department store.
‘Dutch sailors first brought it into Japan hundreds of years ago, but it really only caught on after World War Two, during the American occupation. The way of consuming chocolate in Japan is quite different from the UK. Because chocolate is very sweet compared to traditional Japanese confectionery, it’s normally only consumed in small amounts and it is still regarded as a treat.’
Few things are more refreshing on a hot summer day than a nice big slice of a juicy, red watermelon, whether served plain, salted or drizzled with lemon juice. Internet marketplace, Rakuten, however, thinks they have a match for fresh watermelon, and it’s available to order for a discounted price on one day, for one hour.
Welcome back to the scene, Suika (Watermelon) Baumkuchen!
While the Suika Baumkuchen is not a real watermelon, you may think so if you saw it. Shaped and colored like the real deal, this traditional German pastry, which has become wildly popular in Japan, would confuse even the most astute watermelon connoisseurs.
Baumkuchen are also known as “spit cakes,” as they are made by pouring layer after layer of cake batter on a spinning rod, gradually getting wider and thicker. It’s even sometimes called a “tree cake,” (a literal translation of the German, where baum = tree and kuchen = cake) as the rings resemble the rings on the cross-sections of trees.
▼ The spit leaves a big hole in the middle.
Unlike typical baumkuchen though, this watermelon baum cake, is not just a ring-shaped, yellow cake. The outer layers of the cake are made from a green, melon-flavored batter and further decorated to resemble the striped, telltale watermelon pattern.
▼ The making of the deliciousness.
Typical baumkuchen have a big hole in the middle, where the rod of the spit had been. To make the Suika Baumkuchen, however, they filled that middle section with a red, watermelon-flavored mousse, spruced up with chocolate chips to serve as the seeds.
▼ It’s approximately 10 centimeters (4 inches) tall, 7.5 centimeters (3 inches) in diameter at the top and 11.5 centimeters (4.5 inches) in diameter in the middle.
The cake is then chilled so the mousse can set, so serving the cake is easy and simple – sure beats cutting up a watermelon, plus you can eat the rind!
▼ Rakuten real-time ranking: Consistent Champion.
Is your mouth watering yet? Too bad, you’ll have to wait awhile, and that’s only if you’re lucky. The cake, which sprang to fame last summer after being broadcast on TV, is consistently ranked as the best baum cake by Rakuten pollers.
Despite its popularity, the cake is not a commodity normally found on the Internet marketplace. It’s making a comeback though, albeit not the kind you may be hoping for.
▼ The Suika Baumkuchen will be available for purchase for 1,980 yen (US$16) on Rakuten on Saturday, August 1 from 11:00-11:59 AM.
That’s right, the cake will be on sale for only one hour on one day this summer.You better check your Internet connection and get your credit card ready before 11 AM, if you want to have any chance of getting one these watermelon flavored, summertime refreshers. According to some reviews, you should probably try to get one:
“Someone had one and I got to try it. It wasn’t just cute, it was delicious.”
“When I saw the picture I thought it was a watermelon. It even looked so much like a watermelon up close and when I was cutting it. My family was so excited. It was delicious.”
If you need your watermelon cake fix now, or just want to check out its origin, head to the city of Tomisato in Chiba Prefecture, one of the watermelon capitals of Japan, where you can join watermelon themed road races and are sure not to find a silly watermelon like this.
You’re probably already aware that a large amount of independently-run donut shops in California are Cambodian-owned. What you may not know is that the donut shop industry is an integral part of the Cambodian immigration story.
In honor of National Donut Day, we decided to look into the history of hardworking, Cambodian donut shop owners:
1) Finding a donut in Cambodia is harder than you think.
There may be donuts if you look hard, but if you thought you’d find streets lined with donut shops in Cambodia, you’re in for a let-down. While donuts are a large part of the Cambodian American culture, many can tell you that this is purely an American tradition. Allegedly, there is only one donut shop in all of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
2) It all began with a man named Ted Ngoy.
Before donut shops were associated with the Cambodian American culture, there was Ted Ngoy paving the way. He arrived in the U.S. in 1975 and two years later, he began his own donut shop. Clearly, his legacy continued.
3) “The American Dream”
“Ngoy is the one who found a way for Cambodian immigrants to become part of the American dream of owning their own business,” said Dennis Wong of the Asian Business Association. “Taking a loan from an Asian loaning society, Ngoy was able to buy two stores, operate them for awhile and then sell to someone in the community or a family member who wanted to buy them. That’s how they got into it.”
4) Running a donut shop is hard work.
You’ll often hear about these donut shops having only a few workers in order to save money. In fact, many of the workers are family members who must find time within their day to help the family business. As a result, many owners will work long and tiring hours to make sure their shop is functional. Additionally, many donut shop owners have voiced that the long hours have made it difficult to assimilate into a new society.
5) They have thrived.
An estimated 80% of donut shops in the Los Angeles area are owned by Cambodian Americans. In Houston, Texas, the percentage is an even larger 90%.
Drew Barrymore is in Japan right now, and while we’re sure she’s got some sightseeing and interviews on her schedule, what she seems most fired up about is the food, as the actress looks to be on a mission to sample all that Tokyo has to offer her taste buds, from cheap ramen joints to Michelin-ranked fine dining.
Barrymore has been chronicling her culinary exploits through her Instagram account, marking updates with the hashtag #tokyofoodtour. The very first entry shows the star looking a little sleepy as she poses, chopsticks in hand, behind a balanced and beautifully arranged Japanese breakfast.
Next up, a stop by Sukibayashi Jiro, made famous by 2011 documentaryJiro Dreams of Sushi.
▼ The famously strict Jiro even cracks a smile.
The actress isn’t solely interested in such exclusive establishments, though. As a matter of fact, she was up at about at 7 a.m. to stop by popular ramen restaurant Inoue, located in the Tsukiji neighborhood.
Barrymore also stopped by a Tokyo shrine for a little spiritualism/digesting…
…plus took time to pose with a fan.
The hidden drawback to Tokyo’s extremely diverse dining scene is that there’s so much good food to try, it’s hard to find time for all of it. It seems Barrymore knows that when you’re looking to maximize the variety in your meal, a visit to a robatayaki, a type of restaurant where customers can choose from a large number of small dishes, is in order
Japan doesn’t just have a deep food culture, though. A walk through Tokyo will present you with a staggering amount of beverage options, many of them waiting for you inside the city’s ubiquitous vending machines.
And, like a true foodie, Barrymore remembers to save room for dessert, which on this day came from a Tokyo branch of American donut chain Krispy Kreme.
Unfortunately, it looks as though the Tokyo portion of Barrymore’s trip to Japan is over, as the most recent photo of her Tokyo Food Tour has her posing in the middle of Shibuya’s famous Scramble Intersection with the caption “Sayonara! Goodbye Tokyo.”
Inoue / 井上
Address: Tokyo-tom Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-16
Open 5 a.m.-1:30 p.m.