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Experiment: Japanese candy subscription service (bemmu.posterous.com)
43 points by bemmu on July 9, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 21 comments

While it is a fun idea, I was disappointed to see the sample package. Both items are very readily available where I live in the US (SF Bay Area), which has a large Asian population.

I hope he also sends other items that are more obscure. Otherwise, it would be possible to run this same service for much cheaper from California.

Yikes. It's 3am here in Japan, but I think I'll go out right now to get some candy that will better represent what there is on offer here.

Here are some I was able to find in a small local convenience store. http://i.imgur.com/KGdah.jpg Bigger supermarkets and regional specialty stores should have an even better variety of tastes.

Don't forget that campaign candies and some people are looking for certain prints on their candy (e.g. Evagelion prints on candies).

A lot of footwork to cover here..

I recall yahoo.co.jp having webpages dedicated to some of this stuff.

Looks great. I have not seen these candies before. Best of luck to you!

Not to poop on the parade too much but even though these move you beyond garden variety Pocky I can buy many of these candies at a local Nijiya here in San Diego.

A few of the others are slightly harder to acquire but can be had by going to the giant Mitsuwa market up in Torrance, which is quite a drive for me but still far easier/cheaper than post from Japan.

Potentially still an OK business idea just for people who aren't aware of their options or who live in the heartland or just like the randomness of 'XXX of the month' style clubs.

I agree, totally cool idea, might be OBE these days. I can get Pocky in some local convenience stores around where I live.

Did you really need to include that cliff-hanger? I know it works for TV series, but here it just disappointed me ...

Otherwise, interesting read ...

I believe the outcome is yes, since I know people who will give an arm and/or a leg for some of the exotic candy/foods from Japan.

But with minimal (if any) profit because your margin will get burned during importing due to costs like shipping, taxes, etc. such to make it a full time job you have to push tremendous volume (think like crates and crates of 1 candy).

Yes, shipping costs are the major cost here. Costs are what I will cover in a future cliffhanger post. And to be more clear about my goals, I am not expecting this to be big business, I absolutely agree with that. However if I could get this to cover our rent, that would be great.

I wait to read the actual breakdown on costs shipping, because that's where the interesting parts happen.

Don't let it show you are making too much money or your market will get crowded!

The thing about this idea is that it isn't (or certainly doesn't have to be) a full-time job.

Initial set-up costs should be low, and afterwards this is probably a one- or two-days-a-month job, with an income to match.

(And yeah, that cliff-hanger is a bit unnecessary, to be honest.)

Must Have: Where's the Twitter / Facebook / ShareThis / Stumble Upon buttons?! A site like this could definitely use them to get the word out.

Suggestion: Also, in the future you might want to consider taking a picture of all the candy and adding it to a simple little online shop script, that way if people like something they can request it again and also, there are certain things I KNOW I won't like just from looking at the packaging so letting me choose the 4 candies that go in my envelopes would be nice.

Concern: As soon as I saw the envelopes I thought "How will my Pocky arrive in one peice in those envelopes?! They don't look padded or anything." It would suck to get crushed up candy in an envelope.

Question: Do you travel around a lot in Japan? And do you have a camera that does video? What is your occupation? (My best friend Alan moved there as a teacher for the Jet Program)

Thanks - Chris N. http://www.chrisnorstrom.com

Sometimes a little surprise can be good. I wonder if it's too much overhead to specify what kind of flavors/candies/snacks you like and have it "surprise" chosen from there. This means you can't go for the same Pocky or hard candy or whatever you know you definitely like, but you can always order that extra on the side on top of the surprises.

I subscribe to a service called Birchbox, which sends me a handful of beauty product samples every month for $10. I don't get to choose what's in my package, but depending on how I fill out my profile (e.g. I care about ways to achieve a low-maintenance classic beauty look, I'm young so I don't want wrinkle cream...) I'll get surprises in my box but things that I want to use, instead of things I can't or never had any interest in using. This leads to finding out about products I end up loving, since whenever I do go shopping for beauty products I gravitate towards the same brands and items and ignore the rest. The surprise factor overcomes my biases.

The other thing Birchbox does is they sell the full-size product of their samples. They're much more expensive than candies of course, but I wonder what that kind of business model would be like for these snacks.

Thanks Chris.

If I manage to get a large subscriber base for this simpler service, it will definitely make sense to add a shop for re-ordering single items.

Honestly, at this point I don't have evidence of how the Pocky will survive the mail, but the box is cardboard and seems to me strong enough to survive. Upgrading packaging would require changing from Japan Post to something like FedEx if I still want the packages to arrive directly at subscriber's homes. I guess I could offer it as an option, but subscription would cost around triple the current price for the pricier postage.

My occupation is trying stuff like this on the internets. So far it has worked pretty well. Yes I have a camera like that, what did you have in mind?

Do you still live in Japan and if so do you travel around a lot instead of staying in one place?

A while back I started a project called JourneysinJapan.com (just a really old test blog now) which was going to be a video blog about what it's like to live in Japan. My best friend moved there and he was suppose to be the original "anchor" but stuff got put off and it went no where. I know there's a lot of people that want to live there or know what it's like living there so the "Anchor" basically goes around and introduces you to all the differences in Japanese culture: how the cell phone plans are different, how apartments are laid out, how the subway system works, basically talk to viewers as if they were your friend and explain to them in a casual manner what Japanese life is like. He was going to just record the video and send it to me and I'd take care of the video editing, setting up and maintaining the Wordpress site, upload to the YouTube channel and setup and maintain the Forum. I want to turn the whole thing into a community where people can ask questions and if it's a good question get a video answer back. Video Blog + Transcription for those who want to read instead of watching + YouTube Channel + Tumblr site + Forums. After hosting costs I would pay him 50% percent unless he wanted to take on more of the work (editing, comment moderation, forum moderation, uploading to YouTube, Tumblr, answering messages on all the sites) in that case his share would be bigger. An anchor needs to have at least a little bit of charm, clear voice, etc... No mumbling, no "uhmms". He was perfect but he's kinda busy and I guess doesn't want to do it.

Every now and then when I find someone who lives in Japan that travels to both large cities and small I offer the Anchor position.

I think this is a very nice idea and could be expanded to other products as well. I wonder if the bar is too high for new customers to subscribe without being able to sample some candy first. Maybe offer a sample pack for a nominal fee?

I'd like to see a service where I get a surprise used NES (Famicom) game a month, just for the kicks. ;-)

While I like idea, I'm almost afraid to try it out. Just in case, like you experienced with Kaiware sprouts, I might fall in love with a certain candy, that might be outrageously expensive or impossible to import in larger quantities. It would break my culinary heart.

You should also consider a 1/2 or 1-year gift option.

I'm curious how you deal with export regulation in Japan.

In other words, this isn't worth getting deported over, correct?

That's a good point. I'm not aware of any rules I am breaking, I do hope I wouldn't get instadeported over a disagreement. If this becomes more popular I would start studying the formalities more.

I would recommend just getting a Japanese lawyer who is more aware of this stuff and pay him to make it legal. Reading through the laws is difficult, even if you read the language fluently.

And I don't think Japanese officials would consider this a "disagreement", but more like "illegal activity to avoid taxes". Which would involve a fine and being deported, as any other crime would.

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