Only a few months remain until the Ritz franchise in Japan changes hands and production is shifted overseas. Perhaps this is why we’re being treated to some distinctly Japanese flavors.

■ Times they are a changin’

Earlier this month details emerged regarding the end of Yamazaki-Nabisco’s license over the Oreo, Ritz, and Premium brands of cookies and crackers. This means that Yamazaki will return to focusing on its own domestic brands of bread and snacks, while Nabisco will take Oreo, Ritz, and Premium with it under the umbrella of the food conglomerate Mondelez International.

What this means for Japan is production of these three beloved junk food brands will no longer be domestic. Production of Oreo will go to Beijing, China, Ritz will be made in Indonesia, and Premium crackers will have to be shipped all the way from Italy before reaching the shelves of Japan.

It may be coincidental, but it really seems that Yamazaki-Nabisco has been going all out in releasing some commemorative flavors in the final months leading up to this change. Earlier we saw some truly unique Uji Matcha flavored Oreos grace our table, and now it’s Ritz’s turn with Wasabi & Cheddar and Tarako & Cream Cheese flavors.

■ Synced packaging

These two brands of Ritz sandwiches come in matching packages that line up at three different angles. If you’re the type who enjoys displaying your snack foods in just that right configuration, then boy oh boy, are you in for a treat with these special edition crackers!

■ Great balance

I’ve never been a big fan of tarako, which is a kind of marinated fish roe. The salty taste and grainy texture was always a little much for me. As such, I was a little apprehensive to buy this flavor even despite its meagre 108-yen (US$1) asking price, but gosh darn it those packages matched up so well I just couldn’t resist!

And I’m glad I did. because the combination of cream cheese with the tarako is mixed right on point. The taste is mild but there’s a nice blend of salty and sweet that exactly mirrors the flavor of Ritz crackers and yet also gives them a distinct and unique Japanese seafood taste as well. It’s like enjoying some cheese at a cafe with a salty ocean breeze blowing in off the coast of Kobe.

■ Burns so good

Ironically, the results of the Tarako & Cream Cheese taste-test actually made me worried about digging into the Wasabi & Cheddar flavor. I had thought this was going to be a sure thing, but as a fan of the clean burn of wasabi I was worried they were going to water down its intensity like they (thankfully) did with the tarako.

However, after biting in I was pleasantly surprised by the welcome sting of wasabi! Not only that, the sharpness of the cheddar cheese mingled beautifully with the wasabi and again was well contained by the Ritz crackers’ taste all in a very bold-yet-balanced harmony. I’m actually surprised they went so spicy with it, but it at the same time it isn’t too much for your average fan of food with a little sting.

If I had to choose between the two new flavors, I’d say go for the strong taste of the Wasabi & Cheddar, but I certainly was pleasantly surprised by the Tarako & Cream Cheese as well. Yamazaki-Nabisco certainly played their cards right by accentuating the strong points of all these flavors.

With the production of Oreos moving to China, many online and in my own family have said they may stop eating them come September. I’m not quite so melodramatic considering this kind of food isn’t exactly nature’s finest to begin with, but logistically speaking, it seems much less likely we’ll get special flavors of this caliber ever again after the Japanese factories close their doors to these beloved brands of junk food.

So by all means, grab these special Ritz crackers while they last.

Source: Netlab (Japanese)
Photos © RocketNews24