Monday, October 14, 2013

Glico Tropical Pocky

Recently, I was looking through a copy of "Elle" magazine. No, I'm not a fashion aficionado. It was free and I was on a sociological "expedition" within the confines of my home. I was looking at it not for the articles, which was fortunate since there are probably fewer than I can count on one hand, but for the ads. For those who have never taken a look at this particular periodical, it is pretty much all advertising for fashion-related items, especially clothes.

The point of scrutinizing the ads was to note certain aspects of them. What was the ethnic balance of models, where did certain products tend to be advertised (the front of back of the magazine), what products were advertised, etc. Though not scientific, I do believe that I learned a few things about how advertisers try to reach their markets and who they are focusing on. For instance, I noted that anti-aging products - so-called "serums" - did not include a model at all, but simply showed a big bottle of the product. Food was rarely advertised, but when it was, it was clearly marketed for the calorie conscious and toward the back of the magazine.

What is my point in all of this? My point is that we are marketed to in specific ways. There are a lot more conclusions I reached, which I won't bore you with here, but I am very aware that I believe I'm making choices when I am not. There may be 25 different types of Oreos in the store, but I'm still not in control of the choices I make. Whatever those 25 types are, I didn't choose them. Some marketing person decided on what would appeal to the broadest customer base and packaged them to make that base want them more. Products are positioned, choices are narrower than we believe, and we are not in control even when advertisers offer the illusion that we are.

If you think about this for a second, you'll see what I mean more clearly. If you wanted to eat a pumpkin-flavored Oreo with a yellow cookie, and I would want to eat such a cookie, could you? That's the choice I'd like to have, but it's not there on the shelf. It sounds like a fine holiday option, but it is not available. I'm given what I'm given, and can only choose from those options.

This leads me to the Tropical Pocky, of which mango is an integral component (pineapple is the other part). Mango started to explode in popularity a few years before I left Japan. Suddenly, I started seeing packets of dried mango everywhere then that was followed by various snacks being offered in mango flavor (including sembei/rice crackers). I'm pretty sure this all started with news that mango was going to cure you of cancer, wrinkles, or male pattern baldness. Once that news got out (if such news existed, which it probably did in some form or another), people started eating the fruit and once they developed a taste for it, everyone started to flavor food with it.

Japanese people didn't choose mango. Someone on a news program, a T.V. show, or another media outlet chose to highlight it and then everyone decided this was a bandwagon to jump on. So, I experience a plethora of mango-flavored snacks from a fad that started at some point in the not so distant past and continues to slog onward into the future. Mango could be the "tiramisu" of the future - a fad that started the integration of a flavor into the collective tastes of the country and never got old. Or it could just fade away over time.

This is not "mango", though it is listed as one of the ingredients and I have to imagine that there is a reason that it is listed as a copilot with pineapple and that it is listed first. It's the same reason that "Brad Pitt" is listed before "Matt Damon". Sure, we recognize both of them, but which is going to have a greater likelihood of drawing viewers?

At any rate, despite the billing of mango and pineapple, this is dominated by the pineapple and is far too sweet for my tastes. It reminds me of an overly sweet fruit punch, but the type that is made with real flavors rather than artificial ones. It has some verisimilitude to the real deal, but is too concentrated. If this were a drink instead of a Pocky stick, I'd be adding ice or water to it to water the flavor down. If you've ever felt that 100% fruit juice was just too much for you then you'll see what I mean.

This isn't an awful Pocky, but it's far from the greatest in my opinion. I won't throw the rest away, but it'll be a slow road to finishing the box - a stick here, a stick there, and eventually it'll be gone. I wouldn't buy it again, however, and I'm inclined to avoid other fruit-flavored Pocky after this experience.

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