Niigata ‘iron ice cream’ pumps up local metalware industry

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Satoshi Haga, a developer of “iron ice cream,” shows the product in Sanjo, Niigata Prefecture.

NIIGATA — Ice cream with a topping of edible iron powder has made its debut in the Tsubame-Sanjo area, known for the local metal processing industry, in Niigata Prefecture. The “iron ice cream” sold by a local company has a slight taste of iron and is aimed to boost an industry that has been throttled by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The unique ice cream was developed by a team led by Satoshi Haga, managing director of Plus Y’s, an agricultural materials sales company in Sanjo. Haga says that the team worked hard to make the product “both taste and look like iron” as a new specialty symbolizing the local metalware industry.

The ice cream is made with milk produced in the prefecture, and bamboo charcoal power is mixed in to make the product black. Ice crystals are then added to give it a crunchy texture and enhance the taste of the edible iron powder. The lid of the ice cream container is decorated with an illustration depicting a wire cutter and other metalworking tools to give everything an industrial feeling.

The Tsubame-Sanjo area produces 90% of the metal tableware sold in Japan.

Small local factories put on the annual Tsubame-Sanjo Factory Festival, which attracts a large number of tourists. The event was held online last year due to the spread of the coronavirus.

The number of visitors to the Bussankan, a shopping facility that sells Western-style tableware and metal-cutting tools, dropped by 40%. Business meetings to promote the local industry were canceled one after another. The factories have been crunched by the pandemic.

“I wanted to energize Tsubame-Sanjo with a product that has a major impact,” Haga said. “I want people to eat the ice cream, and hopefully, it will conjure up the atmosphere of a factory tour.”

The ice cream, priced at ¥400, is sold at a farmers’ market in Sanjo. Online sales are under consideration.