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Popular Sweets Gifts Available at Kansai Area Department Stores

Gifts are a must when getting together with friends and family. What can you get that everyone is sure to like? What are others selecting? We've asked department store buyers what the popular items are. <*The information is from Kansai Walker (issued on December 15, 2017)>

Matcha Sweets are the No. 1 Safe Bet. The Combo of a Popular Brand with Matcha Creates a Kansai Flavor that Makes for a Fantastic Gift.

The most popular sweets currently are those made with matcha green tea. The matcha boom still continues, fueled partly by foreign visitors to Japan. Comments by two department stores that sell Malebranche products attest to the popularity of its Chanoka: "Chanoka by Malebranche remains a perennial favorite" (JR Kyoto Isetan) and "Chanoka is, of course, a strong seller" (Takashimaya Kyoto Store).

GOUTER de ROI matcha, a rich matcha chocolate rusk by Gateau Festa Harada, has breathed new life into the word of matcha sweets this year.

"There has been lines since it was introduced in October" (Daimaru Kyoto). It is popular not only in Kyoto, but also at Kintetsu Department Store Main Store ABENO HARUKAS and Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store in the Osaka area, with Hanshin Umeda commenting, "Matcha sweets are popular throughout the year, but it feels as if a new hit product has been created. It's been a great hit, perhaps because rusks have always been popular gifts."

On top of that, this rusk is only available in the Kansai region. The combination of popular pastry shop with matcha to create a product unique to the Kansai region makes for an outstanding gift. If you want a gift that is a sure hit, opt for a matcha sweet.

Shops with Kitchens with Top Points for Freshness and Entertainment Value are Popular. The Open Kitchens are a Testament to the Brands' Confidence

What else is popular? In comments such as "It feels like something new that we've never seen before" (Takashimaya Kyoto Store) and "It creates a sense of discovery or of surprise beyond the expectation for a normal sweet by adding elements such as new visuals or textures, collaborations with other manufacturers, or limited offers to familiar items such as cheesecakes, fruit daifuku and rusks," a variety of keywords that indicate hit products can be found. (Kintetsu Department Store Main Store ABENO HARUKAS)

Also, watch out for the keyword, "live entertainment" introduced by Daimaru Umeda.

"Rikuro's Freshly-Baked Cheesecake and Kiyasu's Mitarashi Dango, both of which are prepared in on-site kitchens, are popular. Customers can see them being prepared and know that they are really freshly made. I think that's important."
Making the production process available for people to see is also an indication of the brand's confidence. And it's fun to watch the artisans skillfully prepare the products while waiting.

"These two brands always have lines, possibly because customers are enjoying the live entertainment of seeing the products being made. That the products are freshly made is also important from the perspective of taking something that is safe as gifts," comments Daimaru Umeda. The opportunity to give freshly-made products as gifts is definitely worth noting.

Photo-worthiness Is To Be Expected in the Age of Social Media

If you're receiving food as gifts, obviously it has to taste good—but another consideration is a keyword that reflects the times: "instagrammable". The wonder when the box is opened, and the visual beauty and element of fun are indispensable for gifts.

"We can't ignore the dissemination of information through social media. It is very important that sweets be photogenic" (Hankyu Umeda Main Store). A product that looks great and on top of that can only be purchased at department stores is sure to become the talk of the town! It will also result in great conversations with anyone you give it to as a gift.

HIBIKA, available at Hankyu Umeda Main Store, combines these two elements.

The sweets at this store are all seasonal. Around the year end and New Year's holidays, supremely instagrammable cakes created in the image of mandarin oranges and camellia are introduced.

Other department stores also echo the importance of the visual element with comments such as "Photogenic is the keyword for popular products" (Takashimaya Kyoto Store) and "We select products that emphasize visual elements that inspire people to go and buy them when they see them on social media" (JR Kyoto Isetan). The element of surprise and beauty felt when the package is opened is crucial to today's gifts.

To Many, the Determining Factor Is that It Is Unique to Osaka and Cannot Be Purchased Anywhere Else

What do department store buyers, who are constantly searching for and procuring tasty items that meet the customers' demands, see as gift items that the customers want?

Daimaru Kyoto responds, "The taste is a prerequisite! In addition, they should keep well at room temperature, be light, and easy to divide up." For those traveling far, small items that are light and keep are best. And if they are to be served when the family and relatives get together, it is better if there is a quantity that can be divided up.

In addition, Daimaru Umeda comments, "We're directly connected to Osaka Station, so many customers look for items that are unique to Osaka. For example, limited offer products, such as Minamoalley's Okonomi Crunch Chocolate (918 JPY) and HillValley's Popcorn made with kombu seaweed from the famous kombu maker, Kansou (1,350 JPY each for shio-kombu flavor and for wasabi & shio-kombu flavor), are really popular. Many people select items that are unique to Osaka and cannot be bought anywhere else."

Standards that Everyone Knows with Clear and Familiar Flavors Such as Cheese Cakes and Flan Are Popular

"Items with ingredients and appearances that indicate how they will taste, such as Bake Cheese Tart's Freshly-Baked Cheese Tarts, with rich flavors and fluffy texture available to take home straight out of the oven (216 JPY/each) and MOROZOFF é's seasonal flan that will make anyone happy, are great sellers. They are popular standards, and in addition, customers come to the store and are surprised to find that there is a Flan Roll Cake (*sale of this product has ended) that is available only at the Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store and end up buying a new product different from the classics." (Hanshin Department Store Umeda Main Store)

"Both western-style and Japanese sweets that everyone knows, but with an added twist, seem to exceed customers' expectations and are popular" ( Kintetsu Department Store Main Store ABENO HARUKAS). Don't forget the standards that everyone loves, which can be enjoyed by people of all generations!

Chocolates are also popular throughout the year. "Quality chocolates, such as Mon Loire's petite leaf-shaped chocolates, Leaf Memory, and chocolates by high-end chocolatiers, such as WITTAMER and Godiva, are generally popular" (Kintetsu Department Store Main Store ABENO HARUKAS). "

So it appears that "everyday sweets with a little extra" that adds a feeling of specialness to life is another keyword for gifts.

[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 12.22.2017]

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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