Japan's top potato chip maker Calbee to raise prices by up to 20%

The prices of Calbee snacks and cereals in Japan will be upped by 5 per cent to 20 per cent from September due to increasing material costs. PHOTO: CALBEEJP/FACEBOOK

TOKYO (BLOOMBERG) - Calbee, Japan's answer to Frito-Lay with an enormous product line-up ranging from pizza-flavoured potato chips to low-carb granola, is raising prices again as companies struggle to absorb costs that are climbing at the fastest clip in years.

The company said in a statement on Wednesday (June 22) that it will raise the prices of snacks and cereals in Japan by 5 per cent to 20 per cent from September because of increasing material costs.

Its shares advanced as much as 5.1 per cent in Tokyo after the announcement, their biggest intraday gain in more than a month.

While paying more for food is a worldwide phenomenon, it is an especially sensitive topic in Japan, where stagnant wages make it hard for households to swallow a rush of price hikes for everything from burgers to beer.

The yen's slide to a 24-year low against the US dollar is also exacerbating price pressures for the resource-poor archipelago, which is heavily reliant on imports for energy and food.

The popularity of the snackmaker, whose largest shareholder is PepsiCo, reaches beyond the supermarket aisle. Its regional souvenirs of limited-edition snacks ranging from octopus-ball flavoured potato sticks in Osaka or taco-rice flavoured ones in a nod to a popular dish in the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa are also hugely popular and will cost more come fall, the company said.

The company has already raised prices several times this year due to a bad potato crop and higher material costs. To the dismay of chip lovers, it also had to cut down bag sizes.

Smaller rival Koike-ya also announced price increases this month, including for its popular spicy and sour product line that will take effect in September.

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