Apple Sherbet in ‘Kawaii’ Containers Popular in Japan, Expanding Sales Overseas

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Shinshu Ringo Dama, an apple-flavored sherbet, right, and Shinshu Shine Muscat Dama, a Shine Muscat grape flavored sherbet

NAKANO, Nagano — A frozen treat named Shinshu Ringo Dama, produced by a company in this city and popular due to its cute, apple-shaped red container and rich apple flavor, is expanding sales channels overseas.

As Nagano Prefecture is known for apples, the sherbet has been recognized as a frozen treat unique to the region. There is also a Shine Muscat grape version in a yellow-green container. Shinshu Ringo Dama means Shinshu apple ball, as Shinshu is an old name for Nagano Prefecture still in use today.

The sherbet is produced by Chukoureika Co., which developed the product’s original version, Chukou Ringo Dama, in 1978. It all started out when the company, which was a wholesaler of ice cream at the time, was asked by clients such as lodging facilities in the Hokushin area in northern Nagano Prefecture, to think of a treat that can amuse students in other regions visiting the area on school trips.

The company president conceived of a frozen sweet using apples. The apple sherbet became popular among junior high and high school students as intended. After eating, some female students washed the container with water and brought it back home as a souvenir.

Around that time, there was a ski craze, which attracted many people to the excellent skiing slopes in the region. Taking advantage of the boom, the sherbet was also sold at local hotels and became popular among people enjoying after-ski time. As the product was not sold at regular retail shops, for a while it was known only by those in the know.

In 2016, the product was renamed to Shinshu Ringo Dama by Makoto Kuro-kawa, 60, the current president of the company, as he thought that the frozen treat should be more known as a product from Nagano Prefecture to sell more widely.

The product’s main ingredient, apple juice, was changed to be entirely produced in the prefecture and the apple juice concentration rate was also increased from three times to five times to give the product a richer taste.

In February 2018, the product was presented at the Supermarket Trade Show, an event to exhibit products and discuss business deals with participating retailers from across Japan. It attracted the interest of buyers from overseas, which started exporting to Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. Currently, exports account for 20% of its sales volume.

The company launched a new sherbet flavor in February 2020, Shinshu Shine Muscat Dama (Shinshu Shine Muscat ball), which uses Shine Muscat grapes grown in the city that are crushed with its skins as its main ingredient. The next year, the Shine Muscat grape sherbet sold nearly twice as much as the apple sherbet. When the sherbets were offered in Singapore via live streaming e-commerce, 1,000 units of each flavor of sherbet sold out in only 90 seconds.

Kurokawa said: “Now that ‘kawaii’ is understood worldwide, it is natural that the design of its container is gaining popularity in Japan and abroad.”

The treat does not rely on just its visual appeal, as it has a pleasant texture that feels as if you are biting real frozen fruits which contributed to its unshakable popularity.

The suggested retail prices for the apple version and the grape version are ¥250 and ¥350, respectively, plus tax. They are sold at hot spring facilities and Michi-no-Eki roadside rest areas in the prefecture; and at about 370 major supermarkets nationwide, excluding Hokkaido and Kyushu.