Popular Japanese dessert maker, Akagi Nyugyo plans to produce its signature GariGari Kun ice pops in Thailand with a local partner. The company aims to churn out 10 million pops by the end of 2017 and reach 68 million by 2020.
Last year, Akagi set up a company in Thailand to distribute GariGari Kun products imported from Japan. After sales took off, the company decided to switch to local production, a move that also gives them a foothold in Southeast Asia.
Fraser and Neave, a Singaporean unit under Thai Beverage, will produce GariGari Kun products in soda, grape and strawberry flavors.
The ice pops are now found mainly in convenience stores and Japanese supermarkets in central Bangkok. After local production starts, Akagi wants to branch out to suburban areas, offering GariGari Kun in some 3,000 shops over the next few years.
According to a company representative, shaved-ice pops like GariGari Kun are rarely found in Thailand and sell for Bt 19 (US$0.56) each - about the same price as in Japan and in the mid-range for local ice desserts. Thais are growing to like the ice pops judging by the increasing sales.
The first GariGari Kun product debuted in Japan in 1981. Since then, the cheap ice pops have been a mainstay among children, teenagers and even grown-ups, who remember the dessert from childhood. From time to time Akagi surprises with wild flavors such as corn potage and tomato pasta.
Akagi plans to make Thailand the export hub for neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Malaysia, with a goal of increasing its Southeast Asian annual sales to Yen 3 billion (US$26 million).
Japanese food brands are becoming increasingly popular in Southeast Asia, driven largely by an increase in the number of Thais visiting Japan. The region's expanding middle class is driving sales of frozen desserts. Ezaki Glico last year began selling frozen desserts in Thailand, including its mainstay Giant Cone.