The makers of Garigari-kun, one of the most popular ice creams in Japan, have released a television commercial to apologize for having to do the unthinkable — raise the price of the ice cream bar by 10 yen, or nine cents, for the first time in 25 years.
The commercial — which addresses the fact that a Garigari-kun bar now costs 70 yen instead of 60 — features a camera zooming out on a somber-looking staff. Standing in neat rows, executives and lower-level employees bow deeply in unison to signal the sorrow they feel for having to compromise the buying power of its best customers — young children. “We held out for 25 years,” text from the ad reads.
Akagi Nyugyo, the ice cream company, spent at least seven years debating whether it was time to implement the 10 yen increase, according to Fumio Hagiwara, a marketing executive for Akagi. Recently, the rising cost of raw materials — including more expensive lumber for the ice cream sticks — finally forced the company to ask more of its customers.
For most developed nations, a single price increase in a quarter century would hardly be an issue. In Japan’s stagnant economy, however, a nation of consumers wary of parting with their money, coupled with declining exports, an extra nine cents can be wrought with meaning. Japan’s biggest issue has been deflation, which has caused both businesses and individual consumers to save instead of spend, contributing less to the economy overall, and forcing businesses to downsize and make cuts.
What’s more, wages in the workforce have not kept up with taxes, such that consumers have less spending money than in the past.
“Garigari-kun is meant to be something kids can easily buy with their allowance,” Hagiwara said. But “even grown-ups have less pocket money these days.”