It’s official: This summer is a scorcher. According to Japan’s meteorological agency, July was 1.42 degrees hotter than the seasonal average. It was so hot in fact that Akagi, makers of Garigari-kun (Mr. Crunchy), one of Japan’s favorite summer time treats, officially apologized to the country on Aug. 3 for the recent shortage of their popular range of frozen desserts, which had apparently been flying out of the stores. When the the news of this popsicle stampede reached us, we thought it would be a good time to take a look at what’s popular and new on Japan’s frozen treat scene.
According to the Nikkei’s POS information service, the No. 1 sold aisu (popsicle or ice cream) this year is a peculiarly Japanese treat: the Azuki Bar from Imuraya. Also No. 1 last year, the Azuki Bar is said to have a pleasant texture that comes from using real azuki beans (sweet beans).
Second place is held the European Sugar Cone. Climbing up an impressive seven places from its No. 9 spot last year, the cone’s popularity reflects the fact that Japanese have an appetite for Western as well as homegrown flavors.
What both these leading products have in common is their value: the Azuki Bar and the European Sugar Cone come in packs, making them an extremely reasonable frozen treat.
My personal favorite value-for-money ice lolly is Lotte’s Hokkaido Vanilla Bar. Once you’ve eaten the lolly, you can collect the cow points displayed on the popsicle stick to claim free prizes, which include cow-pattern lunch boxes and cushions.
This year also saw a slew of new products hit the shelves, the most intriguing (or off-putting, depending on your perspective) of which is Moringa’s Camembert Ice Cream, which apparently has a distinctive salty taste.
Speaking of salty flavors, Häagen-Dazs also released a Salty Butter Biscuit flavor to the Japanese market this year which I can confirm is totally yummy. Another slightly weird one was Futaba’s Lemon Ice Milk, which must be employing some serious voodoo-style food science dark artistry to prevent the whole thing from curdling.
If you’d like to know more about Japan’s frozen treat scene, we recommend you read this article from Ping Magazin, which has a great photo gallery and interesting information on the history of Japan’s popsicle culture.