McDonald's Japan adds French Fry flavor based on nostalgic student snack

Starting next week, McDonald’s Japan will offer daigaku imo French fries. Daigaku Imo litterally means “college potato”.
It is a popular sweet potato snack with a sweet sauce, and allegedly gets its unusual name from being a hit with cash-strapped students looking for a cheap yet tasty bite.

To succeed in the Japanese fast food industry, you’ve got to continually present people with new reasons to come through your doors. Just rolling out new main dishes isn’t enough, either. If you really want to stay ahead of your competitors, you need to regularly shake up your side order menu too.

In pursuit of such innovation, we’ve seen McDonald’s Japan offer French fries with chocolate and pumpkin sauces.

Now, the chain is getting ready to start selling a brand-new French fry creation, although it’s one that draws inspiration from Japanese comfort food.

McDonald's Japan returns to profitability

McDonald's sign in Oyama, Japan

McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) on Thursday reported a ¥5.37 billion ($48 million) group net profit for 2016, returning to profitability after years of slumping sales triggered by food safety scandals.

The profit is a sharp turnaround from its ¥34.95 billion net loss last year, its biggest since becoming a publicly listed company in 2001. It is also well above its November estimate of a ¥3.8 billion profit.

The Japanese unit of the global fast-food chain said its focus on regaining customer trust and turning around its business through menu changes, renovations and other steps contributed to the better-than-expected result.

McDonald’s Japan posted an operating profit of ¥6.93 billion, compared with a ¥23.44 billion loss the previous year, and a 19.6 percent gain in sales to ¥226.65 billion.

McDonald’s business in Japan has struggled in recent years due to food quality problems, including a 2014 scandal that involved a meat supplier in China that was shipping it chicken meat that had already expired.

Its turnaround efforts included collaboration with the popular mobile phone app “Pokemon Go” to make its restaurants key locations for players of the augmented reality game, the company said.

On a same-store basis, sales rose 20 percent and patronage rose 9.1 percent last year, it said.

For 2017, McDonald’s Japan expects net profit to increase 58.4 percent to ¥8.5 billion, and operating profit to rise 29.9 percent to ¥9 billion, on a 4.3 percent increase in sales to ¥236.5 billion.

Source: Japan Times
Going on sale next week are McDonald’s Japan’s daigaku imo French fries. Daigaku imo, literally meaning “college potato,” is a popular sweet potato snack with a sweet sauce, and allegedly gets its unusual name from being a hit with cash-strapped students looking for a cheap yet tasty way to quell their hunger between regular meals.

McDonald's Japan Daigaku Imo French Fries also come in a very special packaging

Since America’s sweet potato fry boom is yet to make its way across the Pacific to Japan, McDonald’s daigaku imo fries will still be made with regular potatoes. They will, however, come with a thick honey sesame sauce, fortified with black sesame seeds, that you drizzle on the fries before eating.

Combining sweet and salty flavors, the odds of the daigaku imo fries being anything other than delicious are incredibly low. They’ll become part of the menu on February 15, though as with many such unique items, will only be around for a limited time.

A la carte, they’ll cost 330 yen (US$2.85), a bit more than ordinary fries, but not so expensive that college kids won’t be able to afford some even after buying their textbooks for next semester.

Poster promoting the new Daigaku Imo French Fries, available from next week at McDonald's Japan