If you asked people to pick the most innovative Japanese company, most of the responses you’d get would probably be from the automobile and consumer electronics industries. Toyota and Honda are responsible for some of the biggest strides in production techniques and robotics. Nintendo and Sony revolutionized digital entertainment through their game systems and portable music players.
Our vote, though, just might go to snack maker Calbee, for the way the company is constantly pushing the potato chip envelope. In the past, they’ve brought us both fresh-fried and Kentucky Fried Chicken flavor versions, and now they’re set to expand the medium even further with triple-thick, gift-quality gourmet potato chips.
In Japan, snack makers take their task of filling their customers faces as a solemn responsibility, and Calbee’s quest to provide the ultimate satisfaction meant developing a product above and beyond what you can find on a convenience store shelf in terms of both price and quality. For Calbee’s newest chips, the company will be entering the arena of the upscale prepared foods sold in Japanese department stores. On April 1, the Hankyu department store in Osaka’s Umeda neighborhood will see the opening of the very first GRAND Calbee retail outlet, with ambitions high enough to justify its ostentatious capitalization.
GRAND Calbee will be the only place where salty snack fans can get their hands on the company’s premium potato chips, which are three times as thick as more plebian fried spud slices.
In order to further distance themselves from more casual chips, the GRAND Calbee offerings will be grouped into three classes for a total of six flavors. Starting with the simplest varieties, the Plain group consists of Lorraine rock salt and butter. Tomato and cheese flavors are the two members of the oddly-named Meal designation, while the intriguing strawberry and somewhat alarming burnt milk are the Dessert delegates.
Single-flavor boxes, containing four 15-gram packs each, go for 500 yen (US $4.85). Calbee also offers a number of more extensive and expensive gift sets, perfect presents for showing someone you care about their happiness enough to spare no expense, with the minor qualification that you limit the discussion to ordinarily inexpensive snack foods.
GRAND Calbee /グランカルビー
Address: Osaka, Kita-ku, Kakudacho 8-7, Hankyu Umeda Main Building, Basement Level 1
Open Sunday-Tuesday 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-9 p.m.