Why are most biscuits individually wrapped?

I don’t know if it’s cause or effect, but there’s a lot of passing biscuits round the office everywhere I’ve worked in Japan and that usually includes leaving them on the desk for people who are elsewhere. If they aren’t individually wrapped that means walking round with a stack of paper napkins and leaving the biscuits on top of them. The few times when Japanese people have visitors in the house they tend to give snacks still in their packaging as well.

The Japanese equivalents like manju have to be individually wrapped because otherwise they all stick together, so there might be an influence of that as well. The Japanese are also far less likely to sit down and scoff a whole packet of biscuits than certain Westerners (e.g. me).

Then there is packaging still being seen as good service in Japan and the general lack of awareness of green issues…


  1. Richard said,

    January 2, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I’m not sure I’d say there’s a lack of awareness of green issues – just that the importance of good service outtrumps it far too often. Not my idea of good service, I hasten to add, when I’m waiting in the bakery for the person in front to get their fifteen purchases put into fifteen individual bags.

  2. Bill said,

    August 19, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    I believe it’s because if you buy them as omiyage for your co-workers, you have to open the package and distribute them individually, and you know how much Japanese people love their gift wrapping. Since a gift without wrapping is unfathomable, well, there you go.

  3. hikaju said,

    August 25, 2012 at 8:21 am

    When buiscuits are wrapped invidually, they last longer. Especially in the Tsuyu wet season and in summer when it is hot and humid, bread, if not kept in the fridge, goes moldy in three days, nice crispy biscuits and potatochips go soggy in an hour, ( there is a particular word for this: しける , and the soft, moist manjus ( sweet bean buns) go off in a a couple of days. You may have noticed that bread is sold only in half or even a quater loaves in Japan, not only because they do not eat too much bread but because it is very difficult to keep any bread in large quantity fresh. it means that if they are wrapped individually in small quantities, they dont get exposed to humid air too long before they get eaten and it prevents food being wasted.

    It is also because gift-giving is such a big part of Japanese society and it is essential that they bring a gift when visiting others, which means that one could receive so much food at once, especially during festive seasons. When this happens, it is very convenient if those sweets and buiscuits are indnividually wrapped so they last longer.

    Another important reason is when there are guests, it is customery to offer all sorts of food and drinks, no matter how casual or brief the visit might be. That means that they have to have permanent supplies of snack food always ready for any unexpected visitors, and it is very practical if the food was wrapped or in small packets and can be stored back if the guests did not eat them. In my mother’s house, there is always an assortment of biscuits and Senbei rice crackers and manjus in a prsentable serving bowl standing by on a tray in a small ‘tea cupboard’, and whenever a guest arrives, she would bring that tray out along with some homemade pickles.

    There is also an aesthetic reason: containers and wrappings have traditionally played an important role in presenting food and many Japanese buy sweets and biscuits purely because the wrapping is nice, i.e., most of those biscuits and sweets all taste very nice anyway and the only factor that motivates the buyers to choose one product over others can be how nice or ‘cute’ the wrapping look.

    There is also the culture of ‘Konbini’ food consumers, who typically buy evrything they eat from Konbini and often never cook. They most likely live by themseves in small apartments with small kitchen with a mini fridge and they do their grocery shopping every day, if not twice a day, at a nearby Konbini, which means that those individually wrapped foods in small quantities are very much convenient. A little stick of cheese cake for tonight, a bag of two pieces of rusks, not for babies but for themseves for breakfast tomorrow, then a mini tub of aloe yoghurt and one salmon riceball for lunch, and of course those minutre packets of Kakinotane and peanuts to go with beer after the bath….well, so it is four times a day of Konbini shopping!…are very easy to consume.

    This, in turn, makes food/confectionary companies further invest in extravagant over-wrapping of their products, on which, of course, many packaging and gift paper manufacturers rely.

    So, the Japanese, whose environmental awareness on avarage is still quite behind that of other developed countries’, who perpetually seek for altimate convenienece in their lives, do allow and encourage such excessive use of packages and wrappings, I think…

    It is, however, gradually changing ….thankfully!

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