Japanese beef croquettes with a 30-year waiting list

Japanese beef croquettes with a 30-year waiting list
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(CNN) — If you order a box of frozen Kobe beef patties from Asahiyaa family-owned butcher shop in the city of Takasago in Hyogo prefecture in western Japan, it will be another 30 years before he receives his order.

That’s not a typo. Thirty. Years.

Founded in 1926, Asahiya sold meat products from Hyogo Prefecture, including Kobe beef, for decades before adding beef patties to shelves in the years after World War II.

But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that these fried meat and potato dumplings became an internet sensation, resulting in the ridiculously long wait shoppers now face.

An unprofitable business idea

The coveted “extreme croquettes” are one of four types of Kobe beef croquettes available at Asahiya. Can’t you wait three decades? The store’s Premier Kobe Beef kibble currently has a more palatable four-year waiting list.

“We started selling our products through online shopping in 1999,” explains Shigeru Nitta, the third-generation owner of Asahiya. “At that time, we offered Extreme Croquettes as a trial.”

Growing up in Hyogo, Nitta has been visiting the local ranches and meat auctions with her father since she was young.

He took over his father’s store in 1994 when he was 30 years old.

After experimenting with e-commerce for a few years, he realized that customers were hesitant to pay a hefty sum for premium meat online.


Shigeru Nitta is the third generation owner of Asahiya.


It was then that he made a bold decision.

“We sold Extreme Croquettes at the price of JPY 270 ($1.8) a piece… The beef alone is about JPY 400 ($2.7) a piece,” says Nitta.

“We made affordable and tasty kibble that demonstrate our store’s concept as a strategy for customers to enjoy kibble and then expect them to buy our Kobe beef after the first try.”

To limit the financial loss in the beginning, Asahiya only produced 200 croquettes in his own kitchen next to his shop each week.

“We sell the meat raised by people we know. Our store only sells meat produced in Hyogo Prefecture, whether it’s Kobe beef, Kobe pork, or Tajima chicken. This has been the store’s style since before I became a the owner,” says Nitta.

In fact, Nitta’s grandfather used to travel to Sanda, another famous Wagyu farming area in Hyogo, by bicycle with a handcart to pick up the produce himself.

“Since that period, our store had connections with local beef producers, so we didn’t have to buy from outside the prefecture,” adds Nitta.

Production increased but popularity grows

The cheap price of Extreme Croquettes goes against the quality of the ingredients. They are made fresh daily with no preservatives. Ingredients include A5-rated three-year-old Kobe beef and potatoes from a local ranch.

Nitta says he has encouraged the ranch to use cow manure to grow potatoes. The potato stems will then be fed to the cows, creating a cycle.

Eventually, his unique concept caught the attention of locals and the media. When a report about Asahiya’s croquettes came out in the early 2000s, his popularity skyrocketed.

“We stopped selling them in 2016 because the waiting time exceeded 14 years. We were thinking of stopping orders, but we received many calls requesting to continue offering them,” says Nitta.

Extreme kibble is made from A5-rated three-year-old female Kobe beef.

Extreme kibble is made from A5-rated three-year-old female Kobe beef.


Asahiya took orders for these croquettes again in 2017, but raised the price.

“At that time, we raised the price to JPY500 ($3.4)-JPY540 ($3.7) with consumption tax. But since the Kobe beef export started, beef prices have doubled, so the fact that kibble production is in deficit hasn’t changed,” says Nitta.

Production has also increased from 200 weekly croquettes to 200 daily croquettes.

“Actually, Extreme Croquettes became much more popular than other products,” laughs Nitta, laughing at his own money-losing business idea.

“We heard that we should hire more people and make croquettes faster, but I don’t think there is a store owner who hires employees and produces more to make more deficit… I feel sorry that they wait. I do want to make croquettes quickly and ship them as soon as possible, but if I do, the store will go out of business.”

Fortunately, Nitta says that about half of the people who try the kibble end up ordering their Kobe beef, so it’s a good marketing move.

Nitta’s mission: Let more people enjoy Kobe beef

Each box of Extreme Croquettes, which includes five pieces, retails for JPY2,700 ($18.40).

The store sends a regular newsletter to waiting customers updating them on the latest shipping estimate.

One week before the delivery date, the store will reconfirm the delivery with patient customers.

“Of course, some people have changed their email addresses. For those people, we call them directly and let them know the delivery date. They can change their address themselves through our website or when we call them, they can let us know.” Nitta says.

Customers receiving kibble these days placed their orders about 10 years ago.

Having a 30-year list of unprofitable orders to fill can be stressful, especially as the price of Kobe beef and labor continues to rise.

But something more important has encouraged Nitta to keep going.


The waiting time for these frozen Extreme Croquettes is around 30 years at the moment.


“When I started selling croquettes on the Internet, I received many requests from remote and isolated islands. Most of them had heard about Kobe beef on TV, but had never tried it because they had to go to the cities if they wanted to try it. I realized that there were so many people who had never eaten Kobe beef.

“For that reason, I kept offering kibble as a trial and would get more orders for Kobe beef if they liked it. That was the reason I started in the first place, so I didn’t really care if it was a shortfall,” he says. Nitta.

One of the most memorable moments was when they received an order from a cancer patient who was about to undergo surgery while waiting for their Extreme Croquettes.

“I heard that our kibble was the motivation for the patient to have the surgery. That’s what surprised me the most,” says Nitta.

The patient survived and has placed multiple orders since then.

Nitta got a call from the patient who told her “I hope to live a long time without getting cancer again” after trying her croquettes.

“I still remember it. I was touched by the comment,” says Nitta.

By allowing more people to enjoy Kobe beef, he hopes the kibble’s fame will help promote the local industry.

“I’m grateful. By becoming famous, I think I can help the entire industry, not just my store, by getting people who haven’t been interested in Kobe beef interested. I want as many people as possible to eat beef.” of Kobe”. . — not just from my store,” says Nitta.

How to taste veal croquettes now

Asahiya now has two locations: its original store in Takasago City and a store in Kobe City. Their frozen beef croquettes only ship domestically.

Although Asahiya operates primarily as a butcher, Nitta says travelers can visit his Kobe store, where they sell two types of ready-to-eat grab-and-go snacks called “Tor Road” and “Kitanozaka” croquettes, named after nearby streets. .

“Kitanozaka” uses lean beef and is priced at 360 JPY ($2.5) each. “Tor Road” uses short spine and chuck, and costs 460 JPY ($3.1).

“We age the meat for 40 days and the potatoes for a month to make them sweeter,” says Nitta.

As for the future, the 58-year-old owner says they are thinking of expanding.

“I’d like to make a little space where people can eat a bit, maybe. Our Kobe store is a tourist spot,” he says. “But if it becomes a restaurant, our neighboring restaurants might be upset because we supply them with the meat as well.”

Top image credit: Asahiya.

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