Japanese beef croquettes with a 30-year waiting list | Tech US News

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(CNN) – If you order a box of frozen Kobe beef croquettes from Asahiya, a family-run butcher shop in the city of Takasago in western Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, it will take another 30 years for your order to arrive.

That is not a mistake. thirty years

Founded in 1926, Asahiya sold meat products from Hyogo Prefecture, including Kobe beef, for decades before adding beef croquettes to the shelf in the years after World War II.

But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that these fried meat and potato dumplings became an Internet sensation, leading to the ridiculously long waits shoppers now face.

An unprofitable business idea

The coveted “Extreme Croquettes” are one of four types of Kobe beef croquettes available at Asahiya. Can’t wait three decades? The shop’s Premier Kobe beef croquettes currently have a waiting list of the nicest four years.

“We started selling our products through online shopping in 1999,” explains Shigeru Nitta, third-generation owner of Asahiya. “At the time, we offered Extreme Croquettes as a test.”

Growing up in Hyogo, Nitta has been visiting local ranches and meat auctions with his father since he was young.

He took over his father’s store in 1994 when he was 30 years old.

After experimenting with e-commerce for a few years, he realized that customers were hesitant to pay a large amount of beef online.

croquettes 2

Shigeru Nitta is the third generation owner of Asahiya.

Asahiya

That’s when he made a bold decision.

“We sell Extreme Croquettes at the price of JPY 270 ($1.8) per piece… The beef alone costs about JPY 400 ($2.7) per piece,” says Nitta.

“We made affordable and tasty croquettes that demonstrate our store concept as a strategy to get customers to enjoy the croquettes and then expect them to buy our Kobe beef after the first try.”

To limit the financial loss at first, Asahiya only produced 200 croquettes in his own kitchen next to his shop every week.

“We sell beef raised by people we know. Our store only sells meat produced in Hyogo Prefecture, whether it’s Kobe beef, Kobe pork, or Tajima chicken. This has been the store’s style since before I I became the owner.” says Nitta.

In fact, Nitta’s grandfather would ride to Sanda, another famous Wagyu breeding area in Hyogo, by bicycle with a handcart to collect the product.

“Since that period our store had connections with local beef producers, so we didn’t have to source them from outside the prefecture,” adds Nitta.

Production has increased but popularity is growing

The cheap price of extreme croquettes goes against the quality of the ingredients. They are made fresh daily with no preservatives. Ingredients include three-year-old female Kobe beef graded A5 and potatoes sourced from a local ranch.

Nitta says he encouraged the ranch to use cow manure to grow the potatoes. The potato stalks will then be fed to the cows, creating a cycle.

Eventually, his unique concept caught the attention of locals and the media. When a report came out about Asahiya croquettes in the early 2000s, their popularity skyrocketed.

“We stopped selling them in 2016 because the waiting time went over 14 years. We were thinking of stopping orders, but we got a lot of calls asking us to keep offering them,” says Nitta.

The extreme croquettes are made from three-year-old female Kobe beef graded A5.

The extreme croquettes are made from three-year-old female Kobe beef graded A5.

Asahiya

Asahiya resumed accepting orders for these croquettes in 2017, but raised the price.

“At that time, we raised the price to JPY500 ($3.4)-JPY540 ($3.7) with the consumption tax. But since the export of Kobe beef started, meat prices have doubled, so the fact that kibble production is a deficit. it hasn’t changed,” says Nitta.

Production was also increased from 200 croquettes per week to 200 croquettes per day.

“Actually, extreme croquettes have been much more popular than other products,” laughs Nitta, laughing at her own money-losing business idea.

“We hear that we should hire more people and make croquettes faster, but I don’t think there is a shop owner who hires employees and produces more to make more deficit… I’m very sorry that they are waiting. I want to make croquettes. quickly and send them as soon as possible, but if I do, the store will go out of business.”

Fortunately, Nitta says about half of the people who try the croquettes end up ordering their Kobe beef, so it’s a good marketing strategy.

Nitta’s mission: Let more people enjoy Kobe beef

Each box of extreme croquettes, which includes five pieces, sells for 2,700 JPY ($18.40).

The store sends a regular newsletter to expecting customers to update them on the latest shipping estimate.

One week before the delivery date, the store will confirm the delivery with the patient customers once again.

“Of course, some people have changed their email addresses. For those people, we call them directly and let them know the delivery date. They can change their address themselves through our website or when we call them, they can let us know.” says Nitta.

Customers who receive croquettes these days placed their orders about 10 years ago.

Having a 30-year backlog of unprofitable orders to fulfill can be stressful, especially as the price of Kobe beef and labor continue to rise.

But something more important encouraged Nitta to keep going.

croquettes

The waiting time for these extreme frozen croquettes is about 30 years at the moment.

Asahiya

“When I started selling croquettes online, I received many orders from isolated and remote islands. Most of them had heard about Kobe beef on TV but had never had it because they had to go to the cities if they want to try it. I realized that there were so many people who had never had Kobe beef.

“For that reason, I kept offering croquettes as a test and got more orders for Kobe beef if they liked it. That’s why I started in the first place, so I didn’t really care if it was a deficit,” he says. Nita

One of the most memorable moments was when they received an order from a cancer patient who was about to undergo surgery while waiting for their Extreme Croquettes.

“I heard that our kibbles were the patient’s motivation to go through with the surgery. That surprised me the most,” says Nitta.

The patient survived and has made several orders since then.

Nitta received a call from the patient who told her “I hope to live a long time without the cancer coming back” after trying her croquettes.

“I still remember that. I was moved by the comment,” says Nitta.

By letting more people enjoy Kobe beef, he hopes the fame of these croquettes will help promote the local industry.

“I’m grateful. By becoming famous, I think I can help the whole industry, not just my shop, by getting people who are not interested in Kobe beef interested. I want as many people as possible to eat Kobe beef . — not just from my store,” says Nitta.

How to try beef croquettes now

Asahiya now has two locations: its original store in Takasago City and a store in Kobe City. Their frozen beef croquettes only ship domestically.

Although Asahiya works primarily as a butcher, Nitta says travelers can visit his shop in Kobe, where he sells two types of ready-to-go snacks called “Tor Road” and “Kitanozaka,” croquettes named after nearby streets.

“Kitanozaka” uses lean meat and is priced at 360 JPY ($2.5) each. “Tor Road” uses short back and mandrel and costs JPY 460 ($3.1).

“We age the meat for 40 days and the potatoes for a month to make them sweeter,” says Nitta.

As for the future, the 58-year-old owner says they are thinking of expanding.

“I’d like to make a small space where people can eat a little, maybe. Our Kobe store is a tourist spot,” he says. “But if it becomes a restaurant, our neighboring restaurants might be upset because we also supply them with the meat.”

Top Image Credit: Asahiya.

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