Japanese manufacturers have dominated the snack industry with a variety of products, delicious flavors, frequent releases, and unique textures (cough *pizza flavored snacks*). But it’s not just about how awesome these snacks are; it's also about the charming and memorable mascot characters that grace the packaging. The mascot characters on snacks in Japan have become beloved icons that add an extra layer of coolness to the snacks. Join us on a journey through the world of Japanese snack mascots as we explore the top 8 characters that have won our hearts.
PEKO-CHAN - Milk Candy
Peko Chan is the cute mascot for the Japanese candy called Milky by Fujiya. The soft milk candy was released in 1951 and is made using Hokkaido creamy milk, which is Japan’s leading export of milk. Milky is extremely popular in Japan and is still in business after 70 years. Their mascot, Peko Chan, is a 6-year-old girl dressed in Western clothes, specifically a yellow T-shirt and blue dungarees. Her name references the Japanese word “peko-peko” which is the growling sound a stomach makes when one is hungry. The candy is supposed to satiate and nourish you.
KYORO CHAN - Morinaga’s Chocoballs
Kyoro Chan is one of Japan’s most popular snack mascots because he even has his own anime series. Since 1967, this bird has been the official mascot of Morinaga’s product called Chocoballs. Think of candy like Maltesers or M&Ms to understand what Chocoballs taste like. Kyoro Chan is used to promote the product in commercials, and there is a big picture of the mascot on every pack of Choco balls. What’s interesting is that Kyoro Chan actually replaced a previous mascot called Chappy, a squirrel that only lasted two years from 1965 -1967. He fits the brand better, and everyone loves Kyoro Chan.
UMAEMON - Umaibo
Released in 1979, Umaibo is one of the most popular Japanese snacks of all time. It is a cylindrical-shaped corn puff snack that comes in a variety of flavors like teriyaki, takoyaki, chicken curry, beef tongue flavors, and yes, regular flavors like chocolate as well. The official mascot for this snack is a character called Umaemon, who has an uncanny resemblance to the animated robot cat called Doraemon. The mascot is an earless grey cat that is an Alien from a distant planet. Umaemon wears a different outfit to better suit the flavor of the umaibo pack, but other times, you can find him on merchandise from the company, like stationery or skin care products.
PANDA - Hello Panda by Meiji
Japanese chocolate panda cookies, also known as Hello Panda biscuits, are small shortbread cookies filled with different cream flavors like chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla. The product was released in 1979 by Meiji Company in Japan, but production moved to Singapore and Indonesia, where it is famous. Each cookie piece has a picture of a cute panda doing several activities. Although there is no special backstory for their mascot, who is simply referred to as “Panda”, he is used in many campaigns and depicted in several outfits.
CALBEE POTATO MASCOT - Calbee Potato Chips
Calbee is one of the largest producers of potato snacks in the world; in Japan alone, it is one of the most successful snack brands. One of their popular products is the Calbee potato chips, which come in different flavors. The potato mascot is unofficially called Potato Boy by Calbee fans. He is literally a potato with a sash that says “potato” and a hat. What is interesting about this mascot is that he is not on every potato chip pack; if you see him on a pack, it’s probably a classic flavor that is a best seller.
KOALA - Lotte Koala's March
Similar to Hello Panda, Koala’s March is a cream-filled biscuit that is made by Lotte, a Japanese candy brand. These cookies have hundreds of designs of the mascot with different expressions and outfits. For instance, the Koala is depicted with expressions like sadness, happiness, shyness, or drawn doing activities like eating or climbing a tree. Unfortunately, there is no official story about the Koala mascot, but there are many merchandise like stuffed toys of the cute mascot.
UNCLE KARL - Curl By Meiji
Curl is a curled corn puff snack made by the company Meiji in 1968. The product mascot is Uncle Karl, who is a middle-aged man shown in different poses on the pack of Curl. Sometimes, he would hold a piece of Curl beside a smaller frog mascot. Other times, there would be a speech bubble above Karl where he teaches how to best enjoy the Curl flavor. For example, the “shaka shaka Curl” comes with spices for you to season yourself. Karl’s speech bubble says, 'Season with powder seasoning!' in front of the pack, and the back shows him teaching how to season your Curl pack.
TYRANT HABANERO - Bokun Habanero by Tohato
Habenero, which is known as one of the world’s hottest peppers, is the inspiration for this Japanese pepper ring snack called Bokun Habenero (translates to Tyrant Habenero). This snack is actually spiced potato rings, which may be hot by Japanese standards but mild for people who love spicy food. The mascot is a habanero with an evil grin, and it oddly fits the snack perfectly. It’s like the consumer is being invited to try a snack that might make or break them.
There you have it, 8 genius Japanese snack mascots that have kept the snack selling for decades. These snack mascots have an incredible ability to transform your snack time into a joyful and memorable experience. The snack becomes much more interesting and it makes you want to buy more.
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This article was originally written by our freelance writer Umm-Kulthum Abdulkareem and edited by us.