While you may recognize it under a different name, for instance, Mikado in Europe or (up until 2014) Rocky in Malaysia, the product is the same: irresistible sweet chocolate biscuit sticks that give a satisfying snap in your mouth.
Hence, the origin of the name: “Pocky” which comes from the Japanese onomatopoeic word for that satisfying crack: pokkin (ポッキン.)
Pocky has garnered international fame, which is quite a feat considering all the chocolate snacks out there. But even the Guinness World Records says Pocky is the “world’s largest chocolate-coated biscuit brand.”
The treat is so popular in Japan it has its own holiday on Nov. 11—Pocky Day—partly because a Pocky stick resembles the number “1.” A day you treat yourself to a box of Pocky with a loved one Lady and the Tramp style, or curl up on the couch and devour a whole box yourself.
Just keep in mind the Pocky slogan: “Share happiness!”
The History of Pocky
The story of Pocky begins more than 55 years ago in 1966, with a simple yet inventive idea: the world’s first stick-shaped chocolate. The concept was inspired by Pocky’s older savory brother, Pretz, which entered the market a few years earlier in 1963.
They are produced by confectionary mammoth Ezaki Glico (or just Glico), one of the top 10 candy companies in the world. Glico is also responsible for several of our favorite Japanese snacks, including Pucchin pudding and Caplico, an ice-cream-shaped sweet.
At first, Glico workers hand-dipped Pocky using melted chocolate, so the end of the distinctive bare biscuit offered a practical solution to sticky hands. However, even after the manufacturing process implemented machines, this design stuck because who wants a chocolate finger mess when answering work emails?
A popular game involves two friends (or a couple) biting both ends of a Pocky stick and trying not to break their respective ends.
The brand made sure adults knew that Pocky was not just for kids, which led to campaigns like “Pocky on the Rocks,” which framed the treat as a drink stirrer, and Pocky Bitter, a more “mature” taste aimed at men.
Pocky is popular not just in Japan but maintains a following globally. Many collectors eagerly await limited-edition flavors and regional specialties.
Unsurprisingly, imitations have made waves over the years. The most controversial is the Korean snack Pepero which bears an uncanny resemblance to Pocky. They even call Nov. 11 “Pepero Day.”
However, despite these copycats, there can only be one true Pocky.
Throughout the years, Pocky has launched hundreds—if not thousands—of variations. From its humble beginnings as a classic chocolate treat, the company, similarly to Kit Kat, has made a name for itself with its limited and sometimes unusual editions.
A few unique and distinctive flavors you can sometimes find, typically in souvenir shops, are:
- Black sesame
- Blueberry and chocolate
- Custard fondue
- Giant rainbow pocky (popular among tourists)
- Salty pocky
Glico chose this day not only because the treats’ shapes represent the number “1,'” but also because it was the Japanese year of Heisei 11
However, the lineup you’ll almost always find in every konbini (convenience store) is:
- Almond Crush Pocky
- Plain Chocolate Pocky
- Pocky Gokuboso (“extra-thin” in Japanese, as they are half the thickness of regular Pocky)
- Pocky Luxury (for adults, shorter, thicker and more expensive)
- Strawberry and Chocolate Pocky
- Tasty Pocky (chocolate made with fermented butter and roasted milk)
It is an official day recognized by the Japan Anniversary Association. Yet, Knee-high Day didn’t make the cut. Bummer.
The regional list takes it up a notch with notable inclusions:
- Tokyo Amazake: Made with sweet sake from Tokyo’s sake brewery.
- Ehime Iyokan Orange: Uses oranges from the Seto Inland Sea.
- Gorojima Kintoki Sweet Potato: from the Kaga dune region of Japan.
- Uji Matcha: traditional green tea from Kyoto prefecture.
- Yubari King Melon: from the fruitful melon fields of Hokkaido.
Available flavors change depending on your country and may not even be sold in Japan, such as Salted Caramel Pocky in Europe or Chocolate Banana in Australia. So, try searching online. If you don’t have much of a sweet tooth, you can always satiate your salty cravings with Pretz, which includes savory flavors such as corn, salad and tomato.
Pocky and Pretz days
Glico declared Nov. 11 as Pocky and Pretz Day on Nov. 11, 1999. Glico chose this day not only because the treats’ shapes represent the number “1,'” but also because it was the Japanese year of Heisei 11, giving them a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
It is an official day recognized by the Japan Anniversary Association. Yet, Knee-high Day didn’t make the cut. Bummer. Pocky day is significant for the brand and chocolate-lovers alike with passionate marketing campaigns that have broken more than one world record and attempted several others.
On Nov. 11, 2012, Glico urged customers to take to Twitter and spread the word of Pocky—literally. It successfully produced a world record with 1,843,733 mentions of “Pocky” on Twitter within 24 hours. The following year they retained their title with a staggering 3,710,044 mentions.
In 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, 143 people took to Zoom to obtain the slightly long-winded “most people opening packaged food online simultaneously” accolade.
A popular game involves two friends (or a couple) biting both ends of a Pocky stick and trying not to break their respective ends. You are bound to see these types of celebratory fanfare every year with romantic up-close-and-personal relay races, megaphones, Tokyo Tower collabs, elaborate Don Quijote displays and much more.
So if you’re in Japan on Nov. 11, appreciate the dynamic history, dedication and many eclectic tastes of Pocky.
What’s your favorite flavor of Pocky? Have a different favorite Japanese snack? Tried any unusual flavors? Let us know in the comments!