When talking about Japanese candy and Japanese snacks, Pocky is a name that will pop up in almost every conversation. Even when searching for Japanese snacks online, you’re sure to find an image of the instantly recognizable chocolate-covered biscuit stick.
Since Pocky is now known all over the world, it’s worth taking a deeper look at this popular snack, learn how it got here, and discover what exactly makes them so popular.
Pocky in Japan
If you were told that there’s an entire day dedicated solely to Pocky in Japan, would you believe it? It might sound a bit absurd at first, but when you consider the country’s obvious love for snacking, a day dedicated to one of the most popular Japanese snacks doesn’t seem that far-fetched anymore.
November 11 is known as “pokki no hi (ポッキーの日)”, or Pocky Day in Japan. The reason why is pretty straightforward but also pretty clever if you think about it. November 11 is 11月11日 in Japanese, and the quadruple 1s in the date reminds people of the shape of the famous Pocky sticks.
Although the day doesn’t have any official significance, many people in the country celebrate it by buying themselves a box or two (or more) of one of their favorite Japanese snacks.
Another reason why they’re so beloved is likely because of the variety of flavors that they have to offer. If you ask any Japanese snack lover what their favorite flavor might be, there will be some who will choose to stick with the classics and say that the original pocky - the Pocky Chocolate flavor - is the best.
But there’s also the matcha, or green tea flavor, as well as the equally iconic Pocky Strawberry, that’s quite popular in and out of Japan. This flavor uses fine green tea powder to give it a distinct taste with perfectly balanced levels of sweetness and bitterness. Undoubtedly, there are also fans who like the snack because of its more unusual options, like melon, cherry blossom, or butter chocolate.
The History of Glico and Pocky
The reason for Pocky’s existence is all thanks to the Japanese candy and confectionery company, Glico. The name of the company is derived from a special ingredient that was present in the original Pocky, which was a type of caramel candy.
The ingredient was called “glycogen”. Riichi Ezaki, the founder of Glico, found that this ingredient, extracted from oysters, helped his sickly son feel better. Ezaki then sought to incorporate this glycogen into more confectionery products in Japan to promote healthier eating habits, and the company was thus established in 1922.
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Glico and their products are immensely popular in Japan — so much so that in the Dotonbori area of Osaka, there’s a giant, multi-colored electronic billboard of their mascot, the Glico man. It depicts an athlete running along a track while holding both arms and one leg up as a signature pose, and if you ever get the chance to see this sign in person, you’ll see both tourists and Japanese people alike copying his pose while taking a picture with him.
Pocky was released in 1966, 44 years after Glico was first founded. Originally, It was conceptualized as a chocolate snack targeted towards busy women to eat on the go. Before releasing the product to the public, the creators behind Pocky figured out that coating the entire biscuit stick with chocolate would make for a messy eating experience, so they smartly left a portion at the end to make it easier and tidier to hold.
Pocky was instantly popular when it first hit the shelves of Japanese stores, and over the years, they’ve not only added more flavors to their lineup but also introduced it to more countries around the world. In 1970, Glico Thailand was established; the 80’s & 90’s saw expansions to Canada, France, and China, and finally, in 2003, a United States expansion solidified its status as an iconic Japanese snack.
The World Wide Popularity of Japanese Snacks
Speaking of snack icons, Japan does seem to have a penchant for creating memorable chocolate snacks, in fact, two of the most popular Japanese snacks are good examples of this.
Kinoko no Yama is a snack that bears some similarity to the Pocky: it has a plain biscuit portion to help you keep your fingers clean while holding it, and a chocolate portion that makes up the upper half. Its uniqueness lies in its shape however; the phrase “kinoko no yama” (きのこの山) means “mushroom mountain”, and surely enough, these bite-sized snacks are shaped just like small mushrooms, making them instantly recognizable.
Also, despite their British origins, Kit Kats have become a favorite Japanese snack item among tourists who visit the country looking for a fun souvenir for friends and family. Not to mention, Kit Kats — much like Pockys — are also known for the wide variety they have in their flavor offerings.