Editor's note: This column has been updated to provide attribution to original sources.
Earlier this week, Calbee's pizza-flavored potato chips were selling for $12 per bag, according to Japan's auction site (the snacks normally sell for about one-sixth of that price). Calbee, which is 20 percent-owned by PepsiCo Inc., has a 73 percent market share of potato chips. According to BBC, Calbee owns more than half of Japan's snack food market and saw shares fall by more than 1%. Rival chip company Koike-ya saw shares tumble by 3.5%. Calbee and Koike-Ya reportedly halted sales of 49 potato chip products, according to local media reports.
Typhoons and floods in Hokkaido, Japan's main potato growing region, caused a shortage of the vegetable. Retail potato prices have been rising by nearly 20% per month. One kilogram of potatoes now costs 402 yen, which about three times the prices of potatoes in the U.S., based on current prices from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Photos of empty store shelves were shared on social media by distraught consumers, as they collectively mourned the disappearance of their top snacks due to the worst potato harvest in 34 years.
"Calbee's potato-snack products were the most and second-most popular snacks in a TV Asahi poll of 10,000 people and 13 confectionery makers last year, and the subject of a prime time show that lasted more than two hours," according to a recent Bloomberg article on the potato chip crisis.
"We're doing everything we can to resume sales again," Rie Makuuchi, a spokeswoman for Tokyo-based Calbee, told Bloomberg. She said that Calbee will consider using more imported potatoes and potatoes harvested from other regions in Japan as well as increasing their imports of potatoes from other countries including the Unties States.
Japan Today reports that starting April 15, Calbee will no longer ship 18 potato chip snack varieties, and from April 22, it will discontinue 15 more varieties. Koike-ya, is discontinuing 9 its potato chip varieties.
Stock up on your favorite Japanese chips while you can. If you don't have access to a local Asian market that sells them, they aren't too expensive (yet!) from Google Marketplace. But if you're too late, don't worry, just get my favorite snack --Flamin' Hot Cheetos.