It was with great fanfare that potato chip giant Calbee unveiled the Renji de Poterich brand of chips. These stand alone among other fried potato slices in that the bag is microwavable, allowing you to heat up the chips and unleash a taste sensation that has only been previously enjoyed at the Calbee factory.
On 19 February, a limited run of Renji de Poterich hit the shelves of leading convenience store chain Family Mart across the country. Snack fans, including our Japanese writing team, flocked for a taste of these warm chips seasoned with butter and soy sauce.
However, on 22 February Calbee made a shocking announcement that they were recalling all bags of Renji de Poterich immediately over concerns that they may catch fire. It’s been reported that the company had received complaints from some customers that smoke and flames had appeared while heating.
In total, 160,000 bags will have to be reclaimed. To make matters worse, the highly anticipated Renji de Pizza Potato, scheduled to be released on 12 March, has also been suspended.
It is unclear what went wrong with the chips in these instances, especially since Calbee is said to have spent two years designing them. Perhaps it was user error, such as forgetting to tear the package open slightly, or using the microwave’s automatic mode when the label explicitly says not to.
Netizens were quick to post their disappointment over this debacle.
“That is upsetting…”
“I had some yesterday. They didn’t really heat up enough and tasted normal.”
“Argh! And I was going to go buy some today!”
“I think they would have caught something like this in development. It’s probably the customers screwing it up.”
“There’s too much variety in microwaves. It’s hard to predict how each one will behave.”
“What the hell?!”
“They probably mistook their toaster oven for a microwave.”
“Oh, and I really wanted that Pizza Potato one…”
“I can hear the resellers booting up their computers now.”
Indeed, this state of snack food emergency is a prime condition for online auction resellers. Back in 2017, poor weather conditions led to a potato shortage which caused a temporary suspension of Calbee’s Pizza Potato chips (the regular non-microwavable kind). Soon after, online auction sites were flooded with people who had hoarded up the remaining bags and sold them for highly inflated prices.
Perhaps the associated safety risk will curb this type of behavior with the Renji de Poterich, but it’s unlikely. As for the rest of us God-fearing hot-chip lovers, there’s still hope at the Calbee Plus store in Harajuku, which serves up pipping hot chips straight from the fryer!