As we’ve seen over the past month, the global supply crisis and other factors have taken a huge toll on the supply of potatoes scheduled for the thousands of McDonald’s locations in Japan. What started as a week-or-two prohibition on anything bigger than a small order of fries has worsened into a month-long potato austerity which has more recently included a rapidly dwindling supply of hash browns too.
To make matters even worse for the major fast food chain, the competition have smelled blood in the water and are capitalizing on McDonald’s moment of weakness. Rival chain Freshness Burger boldly launched the We’ve Got Potatoes! campaign and increased their regular and large orders of fries by 25 percent without changing the price at all.
Now even convenience stores are getting in on the action with Ministop announcing the Bucket Potato, which boasts three times the regular amount of their X Fried Potatoes for 641 yen. These fries are given such a name because of the lengthwise ridge on each side that gives them an X-shape on the tips.
The reason that Ministop can pull this off while McDonald’s is struggling with their own potato supply from North America is because Ministop’s Agria potatoes arrive through a completely different trade route and are sourced from Europe, mainly Germany. Ministop makes no mention about McDonald’s when promoting this product, instead saying that the Bucket Potato was in response to a popular 50-percent increase in size that was held over the New Year’s holiday. The timing, however, is highly suspicious and in their press release the chain declared that they will continue to sell fries in the foreseeable future.
There’s also the highly suspicious fact that a regular-sized order of X Fried Potatoes costs 213 yen, so if you order three it comes to 639 yen ($5.62). The reason for the two-yen differential is because Ministop rounds down the additional 0.8 yen of sales tax on a single order of X Fried Potatoes, otherwise one Bucket Potato and three X Fried Potatoes are exactly the same price before taxes. So, it seems this product amounts to little more than a boast that Ministop has a lot of French fries at their disposal and can sell them by the “bucket.”
▼ A regular X Fried Potatoes (left) and a Bucket Potato (right)
Despite the poor cost performance, the news has landed well with a French fry-starved public and people appear to be chomping at the bit to get some.
“My fat gut is saved! Three times the fries!”
“There isn’t a Ministop close to me, but I have no choice other than to seek one out.”
“Good, good… More fries!”
“Yes! This is your chance to crush McDonald’s!”
“So many places are opening their doors to French fry refugees.”
“I don’t have a Freshness Burger near me, but there is a Ministop so away I go!”
“I was perfectly happy with their 50-percent ones, but 300 percent is beyond my wildest dreams!”
As for the quality of Ministop X Fried Potatoes, our own Ahiruneko is a fan of them as well as McDonald’s fries. He bought a Bucket Potato when they were first released on Jan 14 and said the quality was just as good as usual with a subtly more crispy texture due to the shape. The amount was also quite hefty for one person.
It’s certainly a good refuge for those struggling to cope with the McDonald’s fry shortage. If this trend of competing campaigns from rivals continues, it might actually end up becoming an embarrassment of riches for French fry fans in Japan.
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