Japanese “Miracle” snacks get their first price increase decades later

Tokyo — Japanese Umaibo corn puff makers have raised prices for the first time, shocking fans of “miracle” snacks that have been loved for decades for their crunches and 10-yen price tags.

According to people familiar with the matter, Tokyo-based Yaokin has raised the price of Umaibo by 2 yen ($ 0.02) per piece from April to 12 yen due to rising costs. This is the first increase since it was launched in 1979.

Also, keep in mind that Japan will not be affected by soaring commodities and shipping costs, even after decades of deflation. Although prices are soaring in Europe and the United States, Japanese companies have been hesitant to raise prices entirely for fear of losing cost-sensitive customers.

“Umaibo has been the same price for a long time, so raising the price by 2 yen is a big deal,” 59-year-old housewife Noriko Eda told Reuters. “I was surprised.”

Similar to cheese puffs, but the cylindrical Umaibo has 15 flavors, from cheese to seasoned cod eggs, and creamy corn soup is a bestseller.

Approximately 700 million crispy sticks are sold annually, both in packs and individually. The low prices have kept singlesticks within the range of children’s allowances for years, and for many Japanese, snacks evoke memories of childhood or neighborhood candy stores.

Naomi Hosaka, a 51-year-old housewife, said, “It’s a little sad that cheap snacks and snacks that children can buy are also affected.”

In addition to soaring raw material costs, the depreciation of the yen has pushed up import costs, putting pressure on Japanese companies. Food manufacturers often react by shrinking packages rather than raising prices altogether. This is a tendency called “shrinkflation,” which Yaokin did last with a good stick in 2007.

Takeshi Nemoto, who has been in charge of snack purchases for decades at Tokyo’s snack shop Kawahara Shoten, said other manufacturers may have to keep up with it at higher prices.

“There is nothing we can do,” he said of the increase. “From the manufacturer’s point of view, we can no longer maintain profitability without raising prices.”

Regardless of economics, some Umaibo fans saw this change as the end of the era.

Rock musician Atsushi Osawa said on Twitter, “I’m witnessing a turning point in history.” His band, Uchikubigokumon Domonkai, paid tribute to the treat with a 2010 song that included lyrics about Umaibo’s “Miracle Price.”

“Prices have begun to deviate from the lyrics,” he said.

($ 1 = 113.8800 yen)

Kentaro Komiya, Akira Tomoshige