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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: Cracker Snack Time with Disney Friends
May 1, 2011

'Hold it, Michelle-just because there's some goofy character on the box, it doesn't mean the product's any good, all right? (spots a peanut butter display) Oh, my God.  Elvis Peanut Butter-now what do you guys want? Smooth or Hunka Hunka Chunka?' - Uncle Jesse, Full House

Well, Uncle Jesse, even though you gave in to your Elvis weakness, let's put that philosophy to the test!  A few weeks ago, my brother came home from our friend Aly's birthday party with a surprise: totally fun, Japanese snack pack party favors with Disney characters on the box!  The package's words were in Japanese, though its Nutrition Label was in English, naming the products as Morinaga Pakkuncho Ichigo/Choco.  Morinaga is the name of a confectionary company in Japan that started as a small sweet shop selling 'Western' goods in 1899 and is now a huge foodstuff and frozen dessert factory.  I'm assuming Ichigo means 'strawberry' and Choco is 'chocolate' based on the package design.  The product by itself is simply a wheat cracker filled with a flavored cream filling. For years since my youth, I've seen these types of products featuring adorably designed animal characters at the various Asian and Filipino food marts in our area.  They usually featured a family of Koala's or Hello Kitty and friends, but this was the first time I had seen Disney characters!



Morinaga Pakkuncho featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, and a handful of classic Disney characters

In America, we see plenty of Disney characters promoting some kind of food to appeal to children.  They are typically limited to the most popular Disney franchises for today's general Disney audience: Princesses, Cars, Toy Story, and once in a while Mickey and friends.  In Japan, the collection of characters spans all the classic animated features from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Lilo and Stitch.  Fans of Tokyo Disneyland know very well that the classic characters are where it's at, including some completely random characters that have gained a fan base, such as Marie from The Aristocats.  I noticed another little-known character who shared the spotlight with the famous mouse himself:


Pedro, the little air mail plane from
Saludos Amigos, is a featured character for the crackers

With American culture currently embedded in Pixar mania, it is refreshing to see how much the Japanese love Disney's classic animated characters.  Morinaga's crackers, or rather biscuits, certainly pay tribute to them, even past the colorful packaging as each little pakkuncho features a different character outline on its surface.  The package has even more fun printed inside as there is a guide showing snackers all of the possible designs you may get!


The crackers packaged in a Mickey Mouse decorated plastic packaging


Check out the characters I got!  There seems to be doubles of Pooh and Tigger, but they are simply different poses.


The box is made to be easily opened and reclosed thanks to tabs and some clearly thought out package engineering.


Look at all the characters your mouth can collect!

The crackers are made of the expected ingredients such as wheat flour, sugar, milk, shortening, baking powder, etc.   I was a bit alarmed to read the ingredient list of the Pakkuncho Ichigo (Strawberry).  The package art features a delicious looking strawberry next to the cracker, but when looking at the list there is no reference to strawberries at all:


Where are those strawberries??  Here's a fun tip: ingredients are listed in an order in which the ingredient that is the highest percentage of the product is listed first.  You should be alarmed when you're buying a product like perhaps chocolate, but sugar is the first ingredient.

The closest thing we get to strawberries is 'flavor' and 'red beet color.'  Hmmm'that's a little fishy, though fresh strawberries would indeed reduce the shelf life of such a snack product, so what can you expect from a mass produced, sugar filled snack?  The pakkuncho choco ingredient label was less of a worry as it included solid cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and cocoa powder.  In order to provide the best review for this snack pack, rather than preserve this random piece of Japanese snack culture forever in our home a la Mickey's Magix Cereal (see the March 6 Sunday Brunch), I opened up the package to give it a try.  No lie, as soon as the plastic wrapper of the inner package tore at the seam, I was hit with a burst of artificial strawberry aroma.  The entire room smelt too much like Strawberries, but it also smelled fake.  This should be a Smencil, or a scratch-and-sniff sticker, or even Lotso Huggin' Bear, but definitely not food!  Still, when it comes to sweets, I'm the adventurous type, so I took a bite.


'Strawberry' Cr'me filled cracker

The cracker was new, but familiar.  The filling was just as extremely powerful ' especially if you weren't knocked out by its smell already ' and the cracker part was very plain tasting, which was necessary to balance out the overpowering of the cr'me.  It was kind of like Strawberry ice cream, but at room temperature and not melting.  The sweetness and artificialness was a bit of a turn off, but I felt like a kid again eating fake flavored food in a box with my favorite cartoon friends!

So in the end, Uncle Jesse was right.  The product hiding behind a colorful box may not exactly be that great.  From a nutritional viewpoint, Disney character Pakkuncho crackers don't offer too much. A large blue star has some Japanese characters with 'Ca' in big red letters.  While I'm sure they're not advertising for people to visit California, I'm pretty sure they are referring to the fact that this product contains calcium.  Calcium bicarbonate was added to the product and is also present in the milk ingredients; when looking closer at the label, a serving (about 5 crackers) offers 2% of your daily value of calcium.  Not a lot, but a significant amount for the serving size indicated (5 crackers).


Apple pie Pakkuncho with Chip n Dale and Alice!  Photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/pkoceres/2435771349/

Still, who cares about nutrition when you have Disney characters (on model, too!) adorning your cr'me filled biscuits!  These snacks are obviously more for the novelty and fun rather than nourishment, and that's why they continue to be produced in Japan and a fun novelty find for Americans.  Marketing Disney characters on products has been around since the 1930's and it's always fun to see what types of things Mickey Mouse ends up on. 

 

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