Shigeru Nitta is the third generation to run Asahiya Japanese butcher shop.
Are you deciding now what you will put on your plate in 30 years? This is what customers of a Japanese butcher shop in the southern city of Takasago have. Because if you place your order here, you have to bring with you 30 years of patience before it is finally completed.
The reason for these extreme waiting times is because of the coveted beef croquettes sold at this ‘Asahiya’ butcher shop. These contain the otherwise outrageously expensive deli meat of Kobe beef. “Caviar under steaks” can be charged up to 1,000 francs per kilogram. At Asahiya, however, the so-called “Extreme Croquette” only costs the equivalent of 1.70 francs per piece. How is it possible?
Croquettes with deli meat from Kobe beef
The croquettes for which the butchery is now an Internet celebrity are actually not the main business of the company founded in 1926 – but the famous Kobe meat itself. “In 1999, we started selling our products over the Internet,” current owner Shigeru Nitta (58) told CNN. The butcher is the third generation to run the family business. After several years of trading online, Nitta noticed that potential customers were reluctant to pay a large amount for beef.
To promote his meat products, he decided to sell beef in croquettes. He hoped that after the first try, customers would develop a taste for the meat and be interested in his Kobe beef as well. “We started selling Extreme Croquettes for ¥270,” he told CNN. The butcher started with a production of 200 croquettes per month.
But the idea had a catch: the price of the equivalent of 1.70 Swiss francs is nowhere near the production costs. “The beef alone costs about ¥400 a piece,” says Nitta. The quality is also significantly higher than the price suggests. Extreme Croquettes are prepared daily fresh and without preservatives. Ingredients include three-year-old female A5 grade Kobe beef and potatoes sourced from a local ranch.
“If I continue to expand, I will go bankrupt”
Nitto’s loss-making business, which was actually only planned on a small scale and for promotion, quickly attracted local and media attention. More and more people wanted to try the famous croquettes. The butcher increased production to 200 croquettes a day and also distributed them frozen.
But it wasn’t worth it to Nitta to expand the sale any further – after all, he was losing money with the business. “We keep hearing that we should hire more people and make croquets faster. But I don’t think there is a trader who hires employees and produces more to have a bigger deficit,” says the butcher’s manager. “I’m sorry you have to wait. I want to make the croquettes quickly and ship them as soon as possible, but if I do, the business will go out of business,” he explains of his tricky situation.
Despite this, he has no plans to stop making the legendary croquettes, the report said. He wants to bring more people to the taste of Kobe meat, even if it is in short supply. Half of the people who try the croquettes buy Kitta’s Kobe meat afterwards. So the marketing strategy is working – albeit differently than planned. (Hi)