By Hiraku Iwasaki / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterMochi is a New Year season staple, with people enjoying such dishes as yaki (grilled) mochi and zoni mochi soup.
However, the mochi market has been shrinking of late, so makers are coming up with new ways to eat it. They include arranging mochi like pizza or wrapping mochi in ham. They are also promoting thin-sliced or stick-type mochi products that are suitable for these new types of styles.
With these new products, makers are trying to persuade customers to enjoy mochi throughout the year.
New Year mind-set
Mochi used to be eaten on celebratory occasions, regardless of the season. These days, it is often packaged so it can be kept and eaten at any time. But consumption is falling because it is still regarded as a food that is typically eaten during the New Year season.
In a survey on family income and expenditure, the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry found that households consisting of two or more members bought an annual average of 2,417 grams of mochi in 2015, a drop of 10 percent compared with 10 years ago. Half this volume of mochi is purchased in December.
“Younger people are not interested in buying mochi, partly because they have shifted away from rice consumption,” according to an employee of one mochi maker.
Mochi makers are developing new products in the hope of winning younger customers. Thin-sliced mochi that appeared on the market last year is one example.
Iris Foods Inc. released Netto Sanpun Usugiri Mochi (literally, thin-sliced mochi in hot water for three minutes) in September. A 270-gram package has a suggested retail price of ¥398 before tax.
The mochi is seven millimeters thick, less than half that of the company’s regular product. After being left in hot water for three minutes, it can be eaten almost like instant food and in various combinations, such as with ordinary soup, miso soup and instant noodles. Each piece has a slit in the center, so they can be split into bite-size pieces for children.
Echigoseika Co. launched its Echigo no Kirimochi Kirete Fukkura (fluffy sliced mochi of Echigo) product in September. A 400-gram package has a suggested retail price of ¥585 before tax. The thickness of the mochi is just over seven millimeters, half that of the firm’s regular product.
Consumers can eat it sandwich-style by putting their favorite ingredients between the two mochi slices that come in smaller individual packages. Echigo is an old province that roughly corresponds to Niigata Prefecture.
Easy to cook
Taimatsu Foods Corp. has an even thinner mochi product — Frying Pan de Omochi, which it released in August. It is only two millimeters thick, and a 200-gram package has a suggested retail price of ¥380 before tax. It can be eaten like a pizza by spreading tomato sauce over it and grilling it with cheese and bacon.
Sato no Kirimochi Ippon, made by Sato Foods Co., is stick-shaped and easy to eat after wrapping it with ham and sliced cheese, or dipping it in anko red bean paste or soup. The suggested retail price is ¥405 before tax for 10 sticks (290 grams in total).
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