Japan's fun GariGari ice candy moves to Thailand
Plans to locally produce 68m pops, opening doors to Southeast Asia
TOKYO -- Japanese dessert maker Akagi Nyugyo plans to produce its signature GariGari Kun ice pops in Thailand with a local partner. The company aims to churn out 10 million pops by the end of the year and jump to 68 million in 2020 -- equivalent to the population of Thailand.
Akagi set up a company last year in Thailand to distribute GariGari Kun products imported from Japan. After sales took off, the company decided to switch to local production, a move that also gives them a foothold in Southeast Asia.
Fraser and Neave -- a Singaporean unit under Thai Beverage -- will produce GariGari Kun products in soda, grape and strawberry flavors.
Currently, the ice pops are mainly found in convenience stores and Japanese supermarkets in central Bangkok. After local production starts, Akagi wants to branch out to suburban areas, offering GariGari Kun in some 3,000 shops over the next few years.
According to a company representative, shaved-ice pops like GariGari Kun are rarely found in Thailand and sell for 19 baht (56 cents) each -- about the same price as in Japan and in the midrange for local ice desserts. Thais seem tickled by the ice pops as the steadily increasing sales suggest.
The first GariGari Kun product debuted in Japan in 1981. Since then, the cheap ice pops have been a mainstay among children, teenagers and even grownups, who remember the dessert from childhood. From time to time Akagi surprises with wild flavors such as corn potage and tomato pasta.
Japanese food brands are becoming increasingly popular in Southeast Asia, driven largely by an increase in Thai tourists to Japan. Shifting to local production signals the high expectations of Akagi, which aggressively markets GariGari Kun in Thailand by leveraging the appeal of the product mascot and offering free samples.
The company plans to make Thailand the export hub for neighboring countries, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, increasing Southeast Asian sales to 3 billion yen ($26 million) per year in a few years.
The region's expanding middle class is driving sales of ice dessert products for other Japanese makers as well. Ezaki Glico last year began selling frozen desserts in Thailand, including its mainstay Giant Cone.