My/Mo continues Mikawaya’s ice cream mochi legacy with conventional US ice cream flavors

My/Mo’s ambitious plan: Bringing ice cream mochi to more US shoppers

A common dessert staple at Japanese restaurants in the US, increased familiarity to mochi ice cream hinted that the dessert was ready to enter mainstream grocery retailers. My/Mo seized the opportunity, offering a range of mochi ice cream in conventional flavors at Safeway, Whole Foods Market, Kroger, and more.

The young brand is a new concept by the storied confectionery company Mikawaya, founded by the Hashimoto family in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo in 1910. In the 1990s, Francis Hashimoto invented mochi ice cream—a new take on the traditional Japanese confection of filled pounded sticky rice dough.

But there was still a gap in the market that the company’s new ownership, private equity firm Century Park Capital Partners, wanted to fill. “The consumer base for mochi ice cream in the US was still underserved,” Russell Barnett, chief marketing officer at My/Mo, told FoodNavigator-USA.

“Underserved in the way that meant…ice cream wrapped in mochi dough done in flavors that the mass market can understand,” he added. “The a-ha moment was figuring out a way to deliver everyday ice cream flavors that people understand, wrapped in sweet rice mochi dough.”

From zero to 4,000 stores

When Hashimoto invented ice cream mochi back in the 90s, the idea was to keep it similar to the traditional Japanese pounded sticky rice treats with flavors like green tea, azuki bean, and plum wine.

The new My/Mo brand comes in seven flavors perhaps more familiar for the average US shopper: Double Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, Ripe Strawberry, Sweet Mango, Mint Chocolate Chip, Vanilla Bean, and Green Tea. Thanks to Mikawaya's expertise in mochi crafting, all My/Mo products are made in the company's own facility using US dairy instead of co-packed. "We get to do all the fun stuff ourselves," Barnett said.

The brand was only created in 2016 and hit retail in Q1 of 2017, but Barnett said that the product’s distribution is already poised to hit 4,000 stores in the next few months. “People are always looking for a new, fun, innovative snack,” Barnett said. “I think that’s a key indicator.”

Snack Craze, Japan Craze

My/Mo’s timely launch taps into two booming trends: Snacking and Japanese-influenced innovation.

Trend analysts predicted that Japanese-influenced food and beverage items will be a hit this year, according to trend reports by Campbell’s Soup and Whole Foods Market. “The beautiful thing about what’s going on in mochi ice cream, especially when talking with [US] millennials is that it’s not ‘foreign,’” Barnett said.

“It’s so prevalent that we’re lovingly shocked by how aware consumers are about mochi. And the idea that there’s availability now is wonderful.”

Barnett sees My/Mo is a viable option to satisfy the ever-growing snack cravings of consumers, many of whom have replaced meals with snacks throughout the day, according to Mintel. “We’re seeing people consume and snack up to six times a day,” he said. Ice cream, once exclusively seen as a dessert, is now creeping into the snack category as more ‘chewable’ ice creams hit the market.

“We see that small portion occasion and ‘quick bites’ as a key trend,” he added. “We have My/Mo, which is a handheld snack, and only 110 calories per ball. That’s what we really saw as the driving force of what we believe will push [My/Mo] forward.”

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