By Iris Van Kerckhove
Growing up in Asia, Pocky was a staple of my childhood. I lost interest in it after moving to the United States when I was 17, where only chocolate and strawberry Pocky was available. Instead, I opted for the heavier, fat and sugar-laden snacks of America. I mean, how can a skinny biscuit stick with barely-there coating compete with decadent chocolate bars, Ben & Jerry's, and Sandies Rainbow cookies? But ever since I moved back to Hong Kong in 2013, I've become fascinated with Pocky again. There is something elegant about how light Pocky is--it feels like a guilt-free indulgence.
Pocky first came into existence in 1966, thanks to Japanese food company, Ezaki Glico. Originally, there was only chocolate flavored Pocky. In the 1970s, the almond and strawberry coatings were introduced. These days, there's everything from matcha to dark chocolate to "Men's Pocky", whatever that means. Ezaki Glico has been on a roll with all kinds of interesting limited edition flavors, including Midi, Dream, and most recently, Colorful Shower, which is apparently lemon-flavored with sprinkles of colorful candy in the coating (pictured above). Not every new flavor makes sense, but I appreciate the hustle.
Pocky is very popular in Japan, of course, as well as most of Asia. In Australia and North America, it is very common in Asian markets, although thanks to the diversity of New York City, my friends have spotted Pocky in their local bodegas. An interesting fact that I learned recently is that, in Europe, Pocky is produced under license by Mondelēz International and is sold under the name "Mikado". A friend who knows of my Pocky addiction copped a pack of Mikado for me, and as much as I would like to hate on it for being a French knock-off, it could be argued that it is actually a superior product! The subtlety of Japanese snacks probably wouldn't do well in the European market, so Mikado has more coating, with a richer, creamier, chocolate taste. There's also a similar Korean product called Pepero, produced by Lotte. Though widely regarded as a copycat product, Lotte denies that it was inspired by Pocky.
But despite the more satisfying Mikado, or Pepero's delicious cookie and cream flavor, Pocky still has a special place in my heart. It is the OG, after all. And even if not every new edition is a winner, and sometimes the concepts get a little wacky, I will keep collecting every crazy flavor I can get my hands on.