In the 1970s, Hello Panda was a snack that school children all over Japan were familiar with. Today, these cookies are actually no longer sold in Japan, but they are still sold everywhere else around the world! You might even have seen them yourself in your local supermarket or Asian import grocery store.
But why did these Japanese chocolate snacks stop being sold in Japan? Let’s find out about the mystery behind these cute panda treats!
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What Are Hello Panda Cookies
The Hello Panda snacks have a cookie shell, with a sweet cream filling inside. These bite-size pandas are the perfect size to pop in your mouth, filling it with chocolatey goodness as soon as you crunch through.
The cute depictions of giant pandas printed on them make them so cute too, almost too adorable to eat. Only almost. We’ll still finish off an entire box in no time!
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Although they originated as chocolate-filled snacks, Hello Panda cookies come in many more flavors than just chocolate. Today, they are available with all kinds of crème fillings including caramel, strawberry, vanilla, matcha (Japanese green tea), coconut, and double chocolate.
The Hello Panda cookies are especially popular with children because of the cute panda character, shown doing different sports on every cookie. The giant panda on the cookie does over 30 different sports, including fencing, archery, snowboarding, soccer, and more! They come in tall, hexagonal boxes, perfect for carrying while also keeping the cookies from getting crushed. Each big-box contains 10 individual packs, to make it easy to share.
Hello Panda’s History: From Japan to the World
Hello Panda was created in the summer of 1979 by the Japanese chocolate and sweets manufacturer Meiji Seika, a famous brand and creator of other popular snacks like Kinoko no Yama (Mushroom Mountain). As such, it is the oldest animal-shaped cookie brand in Japan. Although they were first produced and sold in Japan, they were soon produced in Meiji’s Singaporean and Indonesian factories instead.
Soon after, these Japanese chocolate panda cookies were exported around the globe. The cookies were so popular internationally that Meiji began to export them around the world. They can now be found in stores in the following locations: the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, mainland Europe, Australia, Canada, Singapore, and Malaysia.
At the same time, in Japan, a new animal-shaped cookie cornered the market: Lotte’s Koala's March, which were produced starting in 1984. It’s one of the best Japanese chocolate snacks and features a cute koala mascot. The major difference between the two, besides having a different animal character, is that Hello Panda’s cookie is thicker, and the chocolate interior is sweeter. Hello Panda also comes in more flavors than Koala's March.
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Why Meiji decided to stop selling their pandas in Japan and focus on the international market instead, we may never know for sure. Perhaps the koalas pushed the pandas out of the Japanese market. Or, perhaps Hello Panda was so popular internationally that Meiji decided to focus their efforts selling the cookies there instead.
Whatever the reason may be, for those living abroad, Meiji’s export of their panda cookies is a good thing. Now, those living in many other countries can try a tasty treat that people in Japan can no longer buy. Today, despite the success of Koala's March in Japan, Meiji’s Hello Panda consistently tops polls and popularity contests as a fan favorite internationally!
Hello Panda’s Return to Japan
The American chain store Costco recently opened several branches in Japan, and they brought the Hello Panda cookies back with them! Many people in Japan have been posting on social media about these Japanese cookies that they haven’t seen in decades. For those who remembered them from their childhood in the 70s, the cookies were a nostalgic reminder.
However, for those who were only slightly familiar with Koala's March, at first, they suspected the cookies were just a foreign brand knock-off of Koala's March. They were surprised to learn that not only were these cookies produced by the Japanese snack company Meiji, but that they were also invented years before Koala's March.
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Where to Buy Hello Panda Cookies Today
If you live outside of Japan, Hello Panda cookies are available in Asian import supermarkets like Target, Costco, Unimart and many other grocery stores, depending on your country. You can also purchase them online.
Japanese Chocolate Panda Cookies Ingredients
You might be wondering what exactly the cookies are made of. You can find the ingredient list on the back of the package (usually in the language of the country they are sold in). But just in case, here are some of the ingredients!
The chocolate version of these cookies contains ingredients like wheat flour, vegetable shortening, sugar, chocolate liquor, whole milk powder, and salt. The cookies also contain wheat, milk, barley, whey, and soy, so anyone with these allergies may be out of luck.
Hello Panda cookies have 2 grams of protein and 160 calories for every 10 pieces, so they are a great snack for a quick energy boost, especially when you are doing sports, like the pandas on the cookies!
Have you ever tried Meiji’s Hello Panda cookies? Are you team koala or team panda? Let us know in the comments below!