It couldn’t have happened to a nicer frozen snack.

On 12 May, Imuraya Group reported their financial results for the previous fiscal year and announced a record-high income of 1.4 billion yen (US$10.8 million). Not only was it the highest in the company’s 75-year history, but impressively over twice as much as the previous year.

The company name might not be instantly recognizable, but they are the makers of several Japanese confections, centering on sweet azuki beans. Their flagship product Azuki Bar is among the most popular frozen snacks in Japan.

In Japan, the Azuki Bar is legendary, mainly for its reputation as being incredibly hard. People often joke about its potential to break teeth, and the company itself issues warnings to eat with caution. The actual hardness of it is clouded by urban legends, and I personally never found them to be so hard. On the other hand, we did manage to drive a nail into a piece of wood with one, so some caution is probably recommended while eating.

Besides all that, Azuki Bars really have a lot of things going for them. Like many long-running Japanese snacks, such as Umaibo and Garigari-Kun, they’ve managed to keep prices down so that one usually costs around 100 yen (US$0.77).

Secondly, they’re all natural with no added artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. In fact, the ingredients can all be counted on one hand: sugar, azuki beans, cornstarch, salt, and mizuame. Mizuame is a sugary substance made from the converted starch of foods high in it like rice or potato.

▼ We even made a wholesome red-bean rice dish with Azuki Bars

You also might have noticed the total lack of any dairy product in these bars as well, making them an ideal snack for those intolerant of lactose or bovine exploitation. It’s perhaps these benefits, along with its great taste that resembles a subtle chocolate flavor, that have pushed sales to a record-high 300 million units.

Imuraya said that exported sales of Azuki Bars in the USA in particular have boosted profits and last year the company set up its first affiliate manufacturer in Malaysia. Inside Japan, meanwhile, online comments were both surprised and happy with the fortunes of the company.

“Everyone loves those blunt weapons!”
“That’s awesome. Their Ice Manju are really good too.”
“It makes sense. They are quite good.”
“I didn’t know people in other countries ate azuki beans too.”
“I wonder if they’ll surpass Garigari-kun.”
“An Azuki Bar is said to be a nine or ten on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, making it harder than corundum.”
“They’re good but teeth always go missing after I eat one.”
“I was watching a Japanese YouTuber who lives in the U.S. and was surprised to see that Azuki Bar is sold there.”

It’s certainly great to see that Azuki Bar is getting its due around the world and earning a spot in the frozen snack market that it deserves. With any luck, Imuraya might celebrate by giving them out for free again this year, and maybe even in other countries this time. If they do, just remember to pace yourself and protect your teeth.

Source: Tokyo Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, Hachima Kiko
Photos ©SoraNews24
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