Once again we’re back for another exciting session of Made in North Korea and we have a whole new wide range of products to explore over the coming few weeks! Today we’re going to cover local snacks in North Korea once again and in particular we’ve chose to focus on what the DPRK describes as a “Coffee snack” purchased from Pyongyang’s Kwangbok Department Store.It is just the latest in a series of new goods and foods produced by the country in the past few years as it has sought to develop a consumer based economy with a greater role for private businesses. But just how is this snack? And what does it tell us? Let’s find out!
Like other goods we have covered, the North Korean coffee snack is an attempt to integrate broader market trends from around the world into the DPRK. Created by the Gyeongheung foods company, it is not a simple snack or obtained readily but something created and manufactured with the attempt to articulate a given taste, appearance and market sensitive image. To create a coffee snack, you must need an existing cultural knowledge and consciousness of what “coffee” is and what it means to people these days, that in itself reflects a change in North Korean thinking, with coffee becoming popular in Pyongyang. As a result, the package of the snack is coated with an elaborate graphic of coffee related colours, beans and of course a cup itself. Notably, it also displays a preview of the product inside to tempt the buyer. We may take this kind of thing for granted, but it is a huge step forwards by North Korea whom originally having commanded a state command economy where everything was redistributed, saw no need to engage in competitive marketing to customers.
Then what of course of the product itself? If one removes the packaging you find a tray full of waver thin rectangular pieces which are coated with sugar. They look akin to biscuits, however, when one tries them they will find they in fact taste with crackers with a sweet coffee flavouring to them. As a result, the snack is drier than intended which indicates it may be for literally dipping in coffee. Nevertheless, the taste becomes surprisingly addictive and satisfying as one carries on. Eventually, you realize it is something you will find difficult to put down. On that note, health critics may be pleased to see that in another trend also reflected in other local snacks in North Korea, the nutritional information of the product is also listed! Interestingly enough, a small trash can on the right hand corner of the package also reflects a concern for littering and the environment… also a trend adopted from elsewhere.
And that’s all there is to it! The North Korean coffee snack is another example of a changing society in North Korea. The idea of readily disposable coffee and a crave for its taste is something most people don’t think twice about, but here it signifies a cultural and commercial shift, with something having became popular as part of a North Korean’s lifestyle, gaining a form as a consumer product and being marketed on those preferences. Who would have thought about local snacks in North Korea so deeply? This is literal food for thought.