Japanese Snacks (I): Pocky
Pocky is a slightly sweet biscuit coated in flavored icing. In Japan, it's so popular that it has an anniversary day that people know about. There's even a game called the "Pocky Game," where two people eat the same Pocky from different ends. The player who bites off Pocky first is the loser and it is a draw if the players kiss in the center. This game often appears in Japanese anime and TV dramas.
What is Pocky
Pocky is a biscuit bar coated with a thin layer of chocolate. The name is inspired by the Japanese word "pokin," which is "onomatopoeia for the crackling sound of eating a Pocky stick." This Japanese snack is now famous worldwide and is available in convenience stores in other countries. However, Pocky is particularly limited in flavors in Europe or North America, with only milk, white or dark chocolate flavors.
In Japan, Pocky has many variations such as Pocky, Mousse Pocky (with extra thick, "creamy" mousse icing), Decorer Pocky (with extra decorative icing), Reverse Pocky (biscuit with filling inside), and so on. Each variation has different flavors, and there are up to 50 flavors, not counting the limited edition ones! Popular flavors are chocolate, strawberry, and almond. There are season-limited versions, such as honey for spring and mango for summer. There are also some regional flavors, such as Yubari melon from Hokkaido, powdered tea azuki bean from Kyoto, Kobe wine from Kobe, and so forth.
History of Pocky
Japanese food manufacturer Ezaki Glico Co. first introduced Pocky snacks in 1966. They were initially marketed as a convenient snack to young women, but Pocky quickly became popular among all customers nationwide. When it was first launched, one severe problem was that the entire Pocky bar was covered in chocolate, leaving fingers sticky after eating. To solve the problem, the company kept a portion of the biscuit bar undipped.
As Pocky's popularity soared in the late 1960s, it began introducing new flavors. In 1971, the first was a standard chocolate Pocky rolled into sliced almonds. Then, in 1976, Glico introduced a Pocky dipped in strawberry cream instead of chocolate. Back then, Pocky sticks were so popular that even restaurants and cafes offered them as snacks and stirrers. In 1999, Glico designated Pocky Day as November 11, because Pocky looked like number 1 and that day included all ones in its date (11/11).
Pocky vs. Pretz
The name Pretz comes from the word "pretzel," the unglazed version of the Pocky. It's topped with savory flavors, though there are some sweet flavors as well. Japanese Pretz comes in a variety of flavors, such as tomato, pizza, salad, chocolate, and so on. Some flavors may sound weird, such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and matcha.
Pocky and Pretz complement each other: If you're craving a salty snack, Pretz will satisfy you, while if you're more of a sweet snacker, Pocky will probably suit you better. In terms of popularity, Pocky is usually better known than Pretz. Pretz is very popular in Japan, but it is relatively unknown in Europe and America.