Calbee resumes potato chip sales in Japan

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/HandmadePictures
©iStock/HandmadePictures
Japan’s largest potato chip producer Calbee (with a 73% market hold) has restarted sales of the country’s most popular snack it suspended in April due to a severe potato shortage.

Halting the production – and thus the availability – of potato chips sparked a purported buying frenzy among Japanese consumers earlier this year who scrabbled to stockpile the last remaining bags of their favorite snack.

The ¥507.9bn ($4.56bn) company temporarily halted the sale of 15 types of its potato chips.

Calbee chips
Photo: Calbee

Several other potato chip producers, too, stopped production, such as Kara Mucho, Suppa Mucho and Koikeya Potato Chips maker Koike-ya Inc, which ceased selling nine of its SKUs.

This pushed the price of bags of potato chips to an all-time high, rising to six times their usual price.

Calbee’s pizza-flavored chips, which usually sell for less than ¥200 ($1.80), were selling for ¥1,250 ($12), said media reports.

The end in sight

The disruption lasted for three months.

Earlier this week, Calbee resumed sales of three variants of its potato chips, including pizza flavor.

Several other Japanese snack producers have also restarted potato chip distribution.

Typhons floor potato supply

The potato shortage was caused by four typhoons in August last year that hit Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island prefecture, which supplies around 80% of the domestic potato supply.

Flooding reduced the region’s potato production by 10%, to a total of 1.72m tons in 2016 from 2.46m tons in 201, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Local is better

Unable to secure sufficient provision from export markets, the home-based snack producers’ answer to counteract the crisis was to halt production of several of its lines.

Additionally, Japanese snack producers prefer using domestic crops because of the difficulty associated in exterminating harmful insects usually associated with imports.

However, the country’s snacking crisis has now been averted by the start of potato harvesting in other regions around the country.

A Calbee spokesperson said the company received more than 1,000 requests to restart sales over two months.

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