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A Symposium on Pretz for Souvenir! Which Flavors Do the Development Staff Personally Recommend?

Ezaki Glico will release improved versions of 11 flavors of Giant Pretz that are only available in certain regions and eight variants of Wagokoro Pretz (the term “wagokoro” literally means Japanese heart) starting August 8th (Tuesday). Prior to such event, it held the Pretz Zadankai (Pretz Symposium) on August 3rd (Thursday) that brought together all 19 flavors. And so before the rush of people travelling to their hometowns, our Editorial Team has compiled an in-depth report on what has changed in the new Omiyage Pretz (Souvenir Pretz)!

Pretz, which had been sold in limited regions thus far, are largely divided into two groups: Giant Pretz and Chitchana Pretz (Tiny Pretz). The main characteristic of the renewed and improved flavors is the transformation of the Tiny Pretz into Wagokoro Pretz that uses rice. This Pretz that is made with rice, the staple food of the Japanese people, as raw ingredient to symbolize “wa” (Japanese-style) has a crunchy texture that resembles rice crackers. There was a Kome Pretz (Rice Pretz) that used rice flour in the past, but the newer flavors have nearly double the amount of rice flour than Kome Pretz. Further, the Giant Pretz segment will be adding two new flavors that will only be available in Okinawa, namely the Kokuto (Brown Sugar) and Murasaki Imo (Purple Sweet Potato). Using brown cane sugar from Okinawa and Chura koi beni (sweet potato) from Miyakojima, respectively, these two flavors are said to have passed even the taste standards of local Okinawans. Their shapes have also been innovated so that their exterior resembles that of French bread and other similar breads, and they now have notches or cutting marks that are called coupe.

Prior to the symposium, guests were given time to sample all 19 new local Pretz flavors! While we were excited about the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in which Pretz flavors that are only available in limited regions are gathered together under one roof, we set out to taste and compare each one of them. They are all perfectly made that it would be difficult to say which one is the best, but out of all of them, this reporter’s favorite was the Giant Pretz Murasaki Imo that is only available in Okinawa. This variant has a fluffy and light texture created by the coupe treatment, the solid taste of purple sweet potato and the superb balance of saltiness within the sweetness. Among the Wagokoro Pretz, the Negiyaki-Aji Shoyu Shitate (Savory Pancake with Green Onions and Soy Sauce) that is only available in the Kinki region has that delicious flavor that will draw you in. It is a flavor that is suitable for all people, as it is perfect not just as snack, but as accompaniment to alcohol as well.

The symposium was attended by Ms. Ozawa who is in charge of products in the Pretz Planning Group and Ms. Kawamura from the Product Research and Development (R&D) Laboratory’s Biscuit Group. Ms. Ozawa talked about the course of planning as an episode in the development of the new flavors, saying that, “When we were contemplating about adding Japanese flavors to our products, we thought about using the actual rice if we really wanted to make it special. At the end of 2016, we decided to use rice flour. During the stage of deciding on the product name, we had suggestions such as Ekiben Pretz and Okaki Pretz, but we realized that Wagokoro is a great name as it expresses the concept of “wa” in a single word. Those around us also felt that it was a beautiful word, so we stuck with it. I think that these products are more refined and exquisite than the usual Pretz.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Kawamura, who has been involved in the production of Pretz since she first entered the company, shared an inside story. “The dough used rice flour, so we were a little out of our element and struggled in adjusting the hardness and length,” she said. In the Pretz manufacturing process, a single long dough is baked and then cut to the right length along the notches or cutting lines. With the new flavors, however, the use of rice flour has made it hard to properly cut the baked dough so that sometimes, 3m-long Pretz would apparently be found circulating in the production line.

When asked about their personal recommendations out of the improved local Pretz flavors, Ms. Ozawa answered, “For the Giant Pretz, it would have to be the Murasaki Imo. As for the Wagokoro Pretz, then the Tomorokoshi (corn) that is limited to Hokkaido and the Zunda (Mashed Boiled Green Beans) that is only available in the Tohoku region. Many of the souvenirs that use zunda are on the sweet side, but Pretz’s appeal is the use of salty zunda.” Meanwhile, Ms. Nakamura began with the statement, “I recommend them all!” but commented that, “For the Giant Pretz, it would have to be the Hokkaido Butter flavor. It's a flavor that you can just keep on eating forever. As for the Wagokoro Pretz, I recommend the Yaki Onigiri (Toasted Rice Ball) that is only available in the Hokuriku region and Niigata. The dough of the Wagokoro Pretz that uses rice flour and soy sauce are a perfect match, so it incorporates everything that’s good about yaki onigiri and Pretz.”

According to the sales ranking of the Omiyage Pretz in FY2016, the Takoyaki-Aji (Octopus Dumpling) and Zunda were the bestsellers in the Giant Pretz and Tiny Pretz segments that year, respectively. However, these Omiyage Pretz products that have become even more delicious with the recent improvements are just so good that you won’t be able to predict how they will rank against one another. So, make sure to check out these classic presents that you can buy just about anywhere before you head back to your hometowns or go on a trip!

[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 08.03.2017]

*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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