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Sunday, July 12, 2015

Do You Want Fries With That? Too Bad

Believe it or not, Japan is suffering from a French Fry shortage.

The cause, has been, since December of 2014, a dock strike on the U.S. westcoast that will not allow regular U.S. shipments of spuds to make it across to Japan.

How bad is it? Well… KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) Japan said earlier this month, that it was joint to stop selling fries at its 1,163 outlets in Japan… which isn't so bad considering nobody goes to KFC for the fries… but…

McDonald's Japan and its 3,094 restaurants were prohibiting its own customers from buying large portions of its golden, delicious, fries… Get this… NO ONE is asking if you want to Large-Size your fries!

So… why can't these two convenient food outlets get potatoes from an alternate source?

I can't speak for KFC, but it's probably the same, but McDonald's does have certain restrictions on potato quality… and it requires a HUUUUUGGE volume of potatoes, that it is actually quite difficult to pick up a new supplier when suppliers probably already have customers for its taters.

They could both use China… but there are problems there.

When it comes to fries, American companies deal with whomever they need to deal with to get the ingredients they want and need. So the fact that China and Japan are at odds politically doesn't mean much. Dealing with China is NOT an issue… rather their poor quality of product is.

I believe that 49.99 percent of McDonald's Japan is owned by parent company McDonald's Corp. McDonald's Japan annually purchases 120,000 tons of potatoes from the U.S…. which doesn't seem like a lot to me, for some reason. But whatever.

In 2014, both McDonald's Japan and KFC Japan were confronted with scandal whereby a China-based supplier (Shanghai Husi Foods) had been relabeling chicken products past its expiration date, and selling them to the chains.

That's not just someone saving money in China, that's someone who could have killed people.

Still… they soldiered on… but both have seen a reluctant consumer willing to trust the two restaurants again.

To help combat the potato shortage in Japan, McDonald's contracted with east cost suppliers, and flew via air cargo 1,000 tons of potatoes, and an additional 1,600 tons from east coast ports unaffected by the dock disputes on the left side of the country.

So they are trying. I wonder if some Japanese farmer is considering a change to potato farming? 
In 2013, Japan imported some 186,000 tons of potatoes just from the U.S…. that's about 75% of its total potato imports…

China - despite the bad taste left in their mouth regarding expired meat, McDonald's Japan says that while China is a willing trade partner, it feels that China's potatoes aren't up to snuff with the standards McDonald's had previously set.

For both KFC and McDonald's Japan, there is also the problem of Japan's economy being less than stellar these past few years. Along with an aging population, having a break today at McDonald's or KFC isn't done as often thanks to people being careful with their money.

I can relate. In the past, I was a regulate contributor to the coffers of both McDonald's and KFC, but a lack of disposable income and health issues (I'm not saying it was caused by these two companies) means I don't partake of the cuisine from the Golden Arches very often.

However, I do allow myself a treat of Chinese food once a week for lunch. I'm not afraid of China.

Japanese consumers are also opting to go back to its own street meat carts for in expensive meals, rather than the more expensive meals at both McDonald's and KFC. It's true… McDonald's used to have inexpensive food… and KFC… holy crap… and they sell Pepsi as a drink…

I wonder if there is a backlash at all regarding the perceived health qualities of the menu items?

I'm going to say NO… because the Japanese are purchasing in increasing amounts, cheaper alternatives of doughnuts, ready-made meals and crap coffee from convenience shops like 7-11.

McDonald’s Japan expects an operating loss of ¥25 billion (US $210 million) in 2015 - triple the losses it accumulated in 2014… it will also be its seventh straight year of decline… Hmmm… I can see the writing on the menu… are those smiles still free?

I recall once ordering 10 smiles from the McD's menu in Toronto… and the young woman running the cash actually did it. Awesome!

There are fewer smiles at McDonald's Japan, as it announced it was closing 131 outlets, cut 100 jobs at its Tokyo-based headquarters…

While there is still a potato shortage going on in Japan, since customers are still wary of the China chicken issue, even though it says it won't get chicken from China again, McDonald's Japan has brought out the Tofu Shinjo Nugget… a tofu-based nugget meant to mimic the chicken.
McNuggets on the left, Tofu Shinjo Nuggets on the right - I can barely tell the difference. Riiiight.
 Look… when I go for my once a week Chinese lunch, I always get an order of tofu… I love the stuff… but I'm no vegetarian, and need to also have meat to ensure my molars and stomach juices get a proper workout. For me, that Tofu Shinjo Nugget would be like delivering on a false promise. Unsatisfying.

Oh... and should you care, here are the 19 ingredients that go into your McDonald's French Fries: HERE. And just in case the link goes away:
  1. Potatoes
  2. Canola oil
  3. Soybean oil
  4. Hydrogenated soybean oil
  5. Natural beef flavor
  6. Hydrolyzed wheat
  7. Hydrolyzed milk
  8. Citric acid (an anti-oxidant to keep the oil fresh)
  9. Dimethylpolysiloxane (an anti-foaming agent that keeps oil from splattering)
  10. Dextrose
  11. Sodium acid pyrophosphate (keeps the potatoes from going gray)
  12. Salt
  13. Canola oil
  14. Corn oil
  15. Soybean oil
  16. Hydrogenated soybean oil
  17. TBHQ (an anti-oxidant to preserve the freshness of the oil as it travels to the restaurant)
  18. Citric acid
  19. Dimethylpolysiloxane
Damn... I thought it was just deep-fried and salted... still tasty, though.  

Andrew Deserving A Break Today Joseph


  1. ah, you were too early. National French Fry Day is TODAY!

    1. Why do you even know that C in T? Love that you do!