Is Hi-Chew Japanese? A Guide to a Japanese Candy Favorite

23 August 2021 by Lindi

Japan produces tons of delicious candy perfect for a sweet tooth. Whether you love Japanese chocolate, gummies, or hard candy, Japan has it all. One of the best Japanese candies that is well-known and readily available overseas is Hi-Chew. 

But what actually is Hi-Chew? Is Hi-chew Japanese? Does it have as many flavors as there are for Japanese Kit Kats? Let’s find out!

Mango and strawberry Hi-Chew on display on a shelf in California

Image via Shutterstock

The History of Hi-Chew

The story behind Hi-Chew actually began in 1930, when Taichiro Morinaga, founder of famous Japanese chocolate brand Morinaga, wanted to create a chewing gum-inspired sweet. However, since it is considered ill-mannered to remove food from your mouth in Japan, the candy needed to be able to be swallowed. 

Morinaga’s solution came in the form of a flavored candy called Chewlets, brought out in 1931 in one flavor: caramel. The company was already well known for its Milk Caramels, which came out in 1913, and have since become the top-selling caramel in Japan. As the caramel Chewlets became more popular, new flavors, like natural strawberry, were also introduced. In 1975, after years of research, Hi-Chew was officially launched.

The research and development behind the candy is thorough. Morinaga describes the process as a result of crossing milk caramel technology with new technology. Inspired by the technology used to create Morinaga Milk Caramels, the company worked on its flavors and perfected its sugar crystal stabilization process to create Hi-Chew as we know them today. 

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Made up of two distinctive layers, each chewy candy aims to give whoever eats it a burst of real fruit flavor. The candies, which are gluten- and cholesterol-free, are made from concentrated fruit juice.

This popular candy is now available in more than 50 flavors across the globe. In fact, since its launch, more than 200 different flavors of Hi-Chew have been released, and according to the brand, it’s the number one soft candy in Japan. 

In 2020, Forbes reported that 31 pieces of Hi-Chew are eaten every second in the United States, which equals more than 2.7 million pieces per day, and almost 1 billion pieces per year.

Hi-Chew Flavors

A bag of Yogurt Mix Hi-Chew with pictures of fruit and yogurt on the packaging

Image via Shutterstock

Flavor is what Hi-Chew is all about. Of the 50-plus options available worldwide, you will find a wide range of classic fruity flavors to choose from. According to the Hi-Chew website, grape is the brand’s most popular flavor, but you can also enjoy cherry, mango, peach, strawberry, and green apple. 

In Japan, you’ll also find flavor options that celebrate Japanese ingredients like Fizzy Ramune (Japanese soda). There are flavors featuring locally-grown produce, such as the two-in-one pack of Momotaro Grapes & Toyomitsu-hime Figs, coming from Okayama and Fukuoka prefectures respectively. These are just a part of Hi-Chew’s local souvenir editions, which also include Setouchi lemon and Okinawa shikuwasa. 

You’ll also find assorted bags of flavors from regions across Japan, including Yubari melon, Suzu Akane strawberries, and Niagara white grapes. Tohoku Apple, Sakuranbo cherry (Japanese cherry), Amaou strawberry, Kyushu Dekopon orange, and Okinawan pineapple & mango are all popular as well. 

As with many popular Japanese candies, Hi-Chew is also distributed across the globe. Some regions of the world even have their own flavors. In Hawaii, you will find three exclusive flavors, namely Lilikoi (passionfruit), pineapple, and banana.

Types of Hi-Chew

Hi-Chew candies are packaged in a variety of forms, from tropical or superfruit mixes to the individually-wrapped packs introduced in 1996. In 2016, Morinaga released Hi-Chew Sours with flavors like grapefruit, lemon, lime, or even sweet & sour watermelon. 

Hi-Chew Bites, launched in the same year, is a smaller version of the original candy covered in a thin shell. It’s available in mixed bags of mango, orange, grape, and strawberry. Also available is the Hi-Chew Premium range, marketed specifically towards adults. 

Premium flavors include red grape and lemon. Red grape is made with 98% Italian Cabernet Sauvignon grape juice, while lemon is made with Sicilian lemons. 

The Hi-Chew Mini, available in grape, orange, soda, and cola flavors, is the smallest of the brand’s candies, at one third of the size of the original.

Large packs of Hi-Chew on two shelves in a supermarket in San Jose, CA.

Image via Shutterstock

The Fantasy Flavor Games

In September 2020, Hi-Chew introduced the Hi-Chew Fantasy Flavor Games. The brand asked candy fans to pick one of 20 flavors they would like to see launched in the United States in 2021. While there were many interesting and exciting flavors to choose from, including tangerine & orange, fruit tart, and Muscat white grape, it was announced that the winning flavor was strawberry lemonade, featuring strawberry on the outside and lemon on the inside. 

Earlier this year, it was released as part of the Fruit Combos Stand Up Pouch, which comes bagged with both the tropical smoothie and piña colada flavors. This isn’t the first time Morinaga has turned to fans to pick their favorite flavors. In 2018, dragon fruit came out on top in the East Meets West Flavor Games.

Apart from strawberry lemonade, Hi-Chew has continued to expand its flavor offering in 2021. Morinaga has already brought out a range of new flavors, including black cherry, raspberry, and blueberry, which form part of the new Berry Mix packs. 

Is Hi-Chew Japan's best chewy, fruity treat? Let us know in the comments!


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