In most grocery stores and supermarkets like Safeway, Walmart, 7-eleven, or even any small store beside gas station, you can find one or more flavors of Ferrero chocolate products. However, can you find Tokuno milk candy or Morinaga chocolate in those stores? Probably not. Even though there are numbers of Asian food markets located in various cities in the U.S., I bet you definitely don’t know what those Japanese brands are because you never heard them.
It’s hard to find Asian snacks or desserts in the U.S.
Obsoletely, we can’t export all of Asian food merchandises into the American market, but they’re too little, aren’t they? So far, I know that most people around me eating Asian snacks or candy are still Asians, American-born Asian or some American natives having relationship with Asians. On the contrast, in China, we eat KitKat, Kindt Lindor, Nutella and other common American snacks. Those products can be found easily as in the U.S., and the price is affordable. Why are Asian snacks hardly found in the U.S.?
Before thinking about the question, let’s see a few successful examples. Recently, I just realized that an Asian product quietly appear in both Walmart and Safeway with a lower price than the local Asian markets. It is Shin Ramyun (신라면), which is a brand of instant noodle produced by a South Korea brand named Nong Shim Ltd. According to the report of Business Korea, Shine Ramyun has reached about 80 countries with different cultures and from different parts of the world. Thus, Americans might not know what Master Kong noodle is but you probably have seen Shine Ramyun in different markets. In addition, there are a lot of recipes of cooking the instant noodles in YouTube and you can see a lot of American natives leave comments under the videos. It’s confident to say that Shine Ramyun has already entered the U.S. market for a long time.
If Shine Ramyun reaches its success is because instant noodles derive from Asia, there is another example – Hello Kitty candies. My ex-roommate was a young Chinese girl. One day, after travelling back from Seattle, she gave me a bag of Hello Kitty marshmallow as a gift. When I said, “you really don’t have to buy the marshmallow from an Asian supermarket at Seattle because you can totally find the same thing in Safeway here,” she was surprised as when I found it in Safeway. Compared with Shine Ramyun, Hello Kitty marshmallow’s successful export is based on its world-known image – Hello Kitty, rather than the marshmallow itself.
I think one of the obstruction of exporting Asian snacks is language, or culture. Unlike Italian, Spanish, or French, it’s hard to memorize and pronounce names of Asian brands. Not every Ascian product can be addressed simply like “Pocky.” By the way, when searching Pocky, you can easily find its U.S. official website and Twitter, I think it’s a great transaction from a Japanese snack brand to a global snack industry chain. However, like my favorite snack called Shirayukitei(白雪亭) cookie, a 5-layer sandwich cookie with white chocolate, milk, and light cheese, it’s hard to pronounce and write so it’s hardly created its awareness in other western countries.
Another aspect would be the purchasing power and market in different cultures. For example, the official report of China’s population is 1.357 billion since 2013. However, the U.S. possesses 318.9 million since 2014. For some Asian snack companies, before they have time to think about exporting their products to the U.S., they have to maintain their business in Asia especially in China, because that earning Chinese people’s money is much easier than Americans for those Asian companies.
Anyway, I’m glad that Chinese buyers are located around the world, so I still could buy my favorite snacks though in American. I’m still looking forward to seeing more Asian snacks in American stores; at least in 7-eleven, it is somehow a Japanese brand, isn’t it?