Thursday, April 1, 2010
Daiichi Chocolate Cream Bar
Armies of snacks go unnoticed by me when I shop. I bypass them for the same reason that most people do, their packaging doesn't do anything to grab me or illustrate the food contained within very well. The chocolate ice milk bars pictured above have been in the freezer case of the local 99-yen shop for ages, but I never gave them a second glance. Part of the reason for this was that I always saw them from the side and I thought they were these tubes of liquid that you freeze to make Popsicle-like treats (an ice pop). It also didn't help that these were shoved in a corner of the freezer case as if they were trying to hide from customers.
These are made by an ice cream and ice milk manufacturer named Daiichi. It's a very small company which only has 40 employees and was established in 1950. They have several interesting looking confections, few of which I have seen in my local markets. Their line includes monaka (ice cream or milk wrapped in a cake-cone like shell), cones, ice milk and frozen confection bars, and daifuku-style frozen treats (ice cream or milk wrapped in mochi). They also make ice cream for store brands on consignment. If you've ever been to the Peacock or Co-op (Coop) markets and bought their brand of vanilla ice cream in cups, it was made by Daiichi.
They also make ice cream products for Lawson's 99-yen shops. I saw the package of bars that I'm reviewing today in the frozen foods case at our local Lawson's. There were both chocolate and vanilla varieties and I was drawn to them after investigating the calorie information on the back and finding they were the "cheapest" treat among the ice cream and ice milk selections. There are 3 servings with only 84 calories per bar. I decided to buy the chocolate one because it looked like Fudgesicles. As is so often the case in Japan, things aren't always as they appear.
The inside of this bar is actually ice-cream-like ice milk. It's very soft and creamy with a firm shell. The shell is fairly thin and is clearly there to allow the ice milk to be eaten on a stick instead of out of a cup with a spoon. It's a very interesting concept and has one drawback; the stick isn't inserted into the shell but directly into the ice milk so it's easy to yank the stick right out if you try to slide the bar out of the wrapper by pulling "down" on it. It goes right back in though, and seems to hold just fine while you eat the bar.
The bar has a light cocoa scent and the outer shell, which I licked at first because I thought it was like a Fudgesicle, has very little flavor at all. The taste when you bite into the bar and get the ice cream is rather mild cocoa and not very sweet, but both the chocolate flavor and sweetness compound on your tastes buds as you eat more and more. You can tell they skimped on the cocoa to some extent, though fans of mild chocolate may prefer this over the intense bittersweet flavor of some Japanese chocolate.
Each bar is 85 ml., and the same size as a standard Popsicle. This is not, by far, premium or fabulous ice cream. It is, however, a really nice frozen treat for someone trying to watch their weight and their wallet. It's sufficiently sweet and enjoyable, and may even quash a chocolate craving for some. I wish the chocolate flavor was deeper, but I have no quibbles about the soft, light texture. The texture was super creamy and reminded me of a marriage between whipped cream and ice cream.
I compare this directly with the Glico Calorie Control line of frozen treats when I evaluate it. That line of treats, which include monaka as well as cups of ice milk, sell for 160 yen ($1.77) each and have 80-some ml. of ice milk (similar to one of these bars). The Calorie Control line chocolate ice milk is very similar to these bars in flavor, that is weak, but serviceable. Given the choice of buying chocolate cream bars for 99 yen ($1.10) and getting three 84-calorie frozen sweets or just one Glico chocolate chocolate chip cup of ice milk at 80 calories for 160 yen, I'd choose these in a heartbeat.* My high rating is based on a combination of price, calories, and texture more so than a stellar taste experience (and the fact that I expect to buy these repeatedly).
*Note that I didn't compare ingredients since neither the Glico ice milk nor this is very impressive. They're not nutritious or good for you, but rather attractive as occasional frozen treats to fill an urge for ice cream without a ton of calories. This has sugar, grape sugar, and palm oil (all bad news) and the Glico is chock full artificial sweeteners.