Friday's HOT MIC

Friday's HOT MIC

Bloomberg is one of those old line media companies where you imagine reporters and editors walking around the newsroom with bow ties and watch chains hanging out of their plaid vests.

So this headline sort of caught me by surprise:

"The Great Japan Potato-Chip Crisis"

Demand for potato chips has surged in Japan this week, with products on offer for 6 times their retail price online after Japanese snack company Calbee Inc. halted the sale of some of its most popular chip brands.

Calbee’s pizza-flavored chips were going for about 1,250 yen ($12) on Yahoo Japan Corp.’s auction website Friday. One bag usually sells for less than 200 yen. Photos of near-empty shelves at their local supermarkets were trending on Twitter.

The crunch came after Calbee warned on Monday that it will temporarily halt the sale of 15 types of potato chips due to a bad crop in Hokkaido, a key potato-producing region. The northern island was hit by a record number of typhoons last year. Calbee, which has a market value of 507.9 billion yen and is 20 percent-owned by PepsiCo Inc., has a 73 percent market share of potato chips.

Potato chips are a big deal in Japan, a country also known for its senbei rice crackers and Pocky sticks. Calbee’s potato-snack products were the most and second-most popular snacks in a TV Asahi poll of 10,000 people and 13 confectionery makers last year, and the subject of a primetime show that lasted more than two hours.

Can a country that boasts of making raw fish a popular food in America actually make a good potato chip? I have my doubts. But I'm sure the Japanese like them fine, which is all that matters.