TOKYO Aug 22 Americans have enjoyed Reese's
Peanut Butter Cups since 1923, but until now devotees in Japan
had to buy them on U.S. military bases, carry them back in
suitcases or resort to making their own homemade versions of the
That changed this spring when Seiyu GK, the Japan arm of
Wal-Mart Stores Inc, began selling the chocolate and peanut
butter Reese's under an exclusive one-year distribution
agreement with Hershey Co.
The products are the same as those sold in the United
States, minus a preservative not approved for use in Japan.
Seiyu's research led the company to conclude it would find
fans here for the candy in the distinctive orange wrapper.
"We've decided to sell them in Japan because there were
customers' opinions such as 'being addicted,'" said a Seiyu
Based on their initial reception, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
are likely to be in Japan to stay.
Seiyu's first-month sales amounted to 1.7 times more than
Kit-Kat Mini, which had been the most popular product in the
store's chocolate line-up until then, the spokeswoman said.
Seiyu has no breakdown of customer profiles, but "addicted"
expatriates accounted for some of the sales.
"As soon as I came to Japan, and couldn't find them, I was
ready to pay crazy amounts of money just to get them," said
36-year old John-Mark Kuba. The Hawaii native came to Japan in
2005 and works as an assistant language teacher at a junior high
school in Tokyo.
When he spotted them on a shelf in a Seiyu store in suburban
Tokyo's Ogikubo, he said he couldn't believe it, adding: "It
seemed so out of place."
Kuba promptly snapped up three packages containing a total
of 18 large Peanut Butter Cups.
About 85 percent of Hershey's sales are from the U.S.
market, but it expects international net sales to rise to about
20 percent of total sales by 2017.
"Our desire to grow internationally was well timed with
Walmart's desire to expand their sales of our most iconic
products across their global store footprint," Hershey spokesman
Jeff Beckman wrote in an email.
Hershey's produces Japan's Peanut Butter Cups in the U.S.
for export. While the company doesn't comment on product
formulation, Beckman said the Reese's products sold in Japan are
identical to those sold at Walmart stores in the United Kingdom,
South Africa and Latin America.
One difference between the export version and the one sold
in the U.S. is apparent from comparing labels. The Reese's sold
abroad do not list "TBHQ," which is shorthand for tertiary
butylhydroquinone, a preservative.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows its use, but it
hasn't been approved in some other countries, including Japan.
Excluding the TBHQ means avoiding the headaches faced by
Japan's Duskin Co a decade ago, when it admitted its Mister
Donut subsidiary had sold imported pork buns containing the
additive. The revelation and ensuing scandal led the company's
president to resign, and a shareholder to file a lawsuit.
(Reporting by Lisa Twaronite, editing by Elaine Lies)