Step aside, Red Devils ? here’s what a real craze looks like in Korea

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Step aside, Red Devils ? here’s what a real craze looks like in Korea


Flush with pleasure at the phenomenal success of its honey butter-flavored snacks, Haitai has come up with a new flavor in a bid to start another new fad. This time, it is putting “fruity stuff” on the shelf.

Haitai said on Monday that it has unveiled fruit-flavored versions of its wildly successful Honey Tong Tong chips; the new version has the same buttery base but with a hint of apple sauce.

The “honey fad” started with Haitai’s hit Honey Butter chips that hit the market last August. Honey Butter chips, which were developed jointly with the Japanese snack maker Calbee, spawned a whole new hunger for a combination of honey, butter and cheese flavors, a combination that was entirely new in Korea’s snack market at the time.

Those salty and sweet buttery flavors became hugely popular, so much so that stores ran out of supplies within hours, or even minutes, of restocking them on the shelf.

At Haitai’s production facility in Wonju, Gangwon, an average 7.5 billion won ($6.6 million) worth of Honey Butter chips are manufactured per month, but supply is still significantly short of demand.

They were so popular that reports circulated about the theft of cardboard shipping boxes with the product’s name on them, forcing Haitai to deliver the goods in boxes carrying a different snack name.

Reacting to the hyper-demand for Honey Butter Chips, Haitai has expanded its line of similar snacks, introducing Honey Tong Tong and Honey Jagabee chips. Honey Tong Tong looks like a miniature honeycomb, is made from potato starch and is coated with honey butter sauce.

Honey Jagabee Mild is a new version of its Jagabee potato stick snack, with a honey butter flavor. Haitai has also started selling Honey Corn Pop and Honey Cinnamon Churro.

Honey Tong Tong has now outpaced Honey Butter chips in sales. When it landed on supermarket shelves in January, 3.8 billion won worth of the snacks were sold.

In March and April, sales were 4.7 billion and 7.7 billion won, and by June, its sales had topped 10 billion won.

According to ACNielsen, Honey Tong Tong was the No. 1 seller among honey butter-flavored snacks. The original Honey Butter chip, Cocal Corn Chip Honey Butter (Lotte) and Sumi Chip Honey Mustard (Nongshim) follow in popularity.

In a bid to keep the craze alive and fend off competitors, Haitai added fruit flavors to the mix. The company hopes to generate 100 billion won in sales from the Honey series.

Apple and strawberry flavors came out on Monday, and Haitai plans two or three more in the second half.

Haitai says it had focused more on the Honey Tong Tong line because of production constraints involved in its Honey Butter chip. A second production facility for the chips is expected to be finished next April, but until then, its output capacity is limited.

Honey Tong Tong, which uses potato starch rather than sliced potatoes, is easier to make and production can be ramped up quickly.

The second Honey Butter chip production unit is being built on a 30,000-square-meter (7-acre) site in Wonju, Gangwon, with an investment of 24 billion won. When the second unit starts production, Honey Butter chip output is expected to double.

Spurred by its sweet good fortune, Haitai says it is aiming for 400 billion won in total sales by 2018. “We will take the No. 1 position in the snack market with Honey Tong Tong and Honey Butter chips,” boasted So Sung-soo, a Haitai spokesman. Currently, it is third in snacks in Korea, where “snacks” are defined as bagged dried confections.

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