Remember Kyoro-chan, the super cute bird mascot decorating the package of Japan's 50 year old ChocoBall candy? (We wrote a piece on Kyoro and his famous candy here, in case you missed it!)
Well, his ChocoBalls are back, only now they're missing his adorable little face. And while we're sad to see his big beak gone, our appetites are peaked by this new candy. This time, ChocoBall's going for an older market with their new Luxury Adult ChocoBall.
I can imagine the pitch by the marketing department at Morinaga (ChocoBall's manufacturer). Kids raised on ChocoBalls, now in their late 20s, 30s, and 40s, are an easy consumer market to tap. The nostalgia of their childhood is repackaged, containing all of the joyful memories of youth, but with an updated taste to meet the sophistication of adulthood. This is the aim of the Luxury Adult ChocoBall.
The ChocoBall concept is simple. First, take a pea-sized ball of filling, anything will do: a peanut, a drop of caramel, an artificially flavored strawberry nougat, etcetera. Then cover it in chocolate and voila: the ChocoBall. Not very difficult, is it? Still, I'm a fan of such culinary minimalism. Minimalism expresses pure beauty in its simplest forms, and when we look at food from this perspective, we realize there's an entire unseen world of potential, subtle flavor configurations.
Need an example? Okay! What makes a single piece of nigiri sushi a masterpiece? Easy. An incredibly fresh cut of fish with perfectly prepared vinegared-rice and a dab of wasabi. And yet, the range of sushi — from dry flabby convenience store bentos to 30,000 yen individually-prepared delicacies — is so vast. This is the power of simplicity. Our senses grow perceptive to an entire micro-world of subtle differences, allowing us to transcend the traps of typical culinary experiences.
Let's apply this concept to the ChocoBall. We begin first with a taste of the original kids ChocoBall. Crunch. Chew. Swallow. Good or bad? Neither. They're generic. Unmemorable. The taste tells us immediately: these are for little kids. Sure, they're minimal, but they lack sophistication. (Of course, ChocoBall's nostalgia factor make them a wonderful, little candy, but that's a conversation for another day.)
Based on the name alone, Luxury Adult ChocoBall purports to give us a high-class experience. In food, this means we can expect undertones and hints of additional flavors, like a good red wine. Can it deliver on its promises of luxury?
Starting with the peanut, I delicately bring a pod to my lips. It takes a moment to register, but upon crunch, my palate fills with a rich, smooth, and yet slightly bitter sensation. Black coffee grounds, earthy tones and a savory smokey aftertaste… incredible! This is complex like an expensive class of scotch is complex. Peanut flavor is an easy conversation starter, and deeply enjoyable — all the signs of adult luxury! Good work Peanut!
Can caramel, which typically overpowers the eater with its sweetness, manage to tread the path to "Luxury Adult" status? First, it will need to tone down the sweet factor. Into the mouth, and we're chewing away. Interesting concept here, as the augmentation of dark chocolate around the caramel helps to stunt the sweetness with a more serious bitter. In addition, unidentifiable salty and buttery undertones make this little nugget irresistible.
Minimal. Simple. Refined. Delicious. All qualities to respect and relish; all qualities of the Luxury Adult ChocoBall. Left happy and fulfilled, I have every intention of grabbing additional flavors (like strawberry) next time I stroll through the supermarket. I'd encourage you to do the same.
ALL Photos by Bakemono Ltd.