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Prizes in Chocolate Eggs Lure Adults

February 2, 2001
Model lizards, seagulls, and dogs are among the figures that come free with Choco Eggs. (Furuta Confectionery)

The prizes that often come with candy and chocolate in Japan have always been popular with children. Recently, however, as these prizes have become more and more popular with adults, candy manufacturers have been busy creating products geared to these unexpected consumers. The product most in demand these days is Choco Egg, an egg-shaped chocolate that contains a figurine of a wild animal. Choco Egg, which costs 150 yen (1.25 U.S. dollars at 120 yen to the dollar), went on sale in the fall of 1999 and currently enjoys monthly sales of 4-5 million units. Three major publishers have also released books in connection with the phenomenon. Is this boom the result of nostalgia, or is it fueled by a mania for collecting toys?

Prizes a Big Hit
Many people have fond memories of the toys and other prizes that came with the candy they enjoyed as children. Major food manufacturer Ezaki Glico is said to have started the practice of including free gifts with candy in 1922. Since then, there have been so many different prizes that it is almost possible to guess people's ages based on which ones they remember from their childhood.

The prizes were originally intended to attract children's attention and encourage them to ask their parents or grandparents to buy the accompanying candy. The majority of recent buyers, however, are office workers and homemakers. Coinciding with the shift in customers, candy makers have created products with prizes designed to attract adults. The best example of this is Choco Egg, made by Furuta, a candy maker based in Osaka. In the period between September 1999, when it went on sale, and November 2000, approximately 16 million Choco Eggs were sold.

Furuta had originally intended Choco Egg for children, but many adults found the collection of 24 realistic and elaborate wild animal figures irresistible. There have been a remarkable number of middle-aged and even older people buying up to 10 or 20 Choco Eggs at a time. In September 2000, Furuta added a collection of 35 pet figures to their wild animal series, which by then had grown to 130. This helped to boost sales for September and October 2000 up to 7 million units. The eggs were so popular that in some areas shipments had to be temporarily halted.

Related Books
Numerous other candies with prizes have been enjoying success recently, but Choco Egg has gone so far as to spawn books. Three major publishers released books in connection with the wild animal figures, one after another.

The book granted official status was Choko Egga (Choco Egger), published by Kodansha in September 2000. While aimed at a wide audience, it also includes a number of details likely to please die-hard fans, such as color variations among the figures. In October 2000 the Heibonsha publishing firm, drawing on experience creating animal picture books, released Japan's Choco Egg Animal Encyclopedia. That same month, Shogakukan published Choco Egg Encyclopedia, which was inspired by outdoor magazines. Information on extinct animals as well as photographs of real animals were included, making the book appealing to nature lovers. Like the candy companies, all three publishers have attached original animal figures in an effort to sell the books. The more-or-less simultaneous release of these three books attests to the phenomenal success of the animal figures.

The appearance of the books has also pushed Choco Egg sales even higher. Some people have spent up to 300,000 yen (2,500 U.S. dollars) buying Choco Eggs, collecting enough animal figures to make their own zoo. The makers plan to capitalize on this trend, hoping that people will be interested in collecting all of the figures in the hope of making a model animal kingdom.

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Trends in JapanCopyright (c) 2001 Japan Information Network. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.