Issei Mochi Gummies celebrates Japanese heritage with better-for-you indulgences

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Mochi startup spotlight

Better-for-you candy company Issei Mochi Gummies is bolstering its retail footprint with recent launches into Albertsons and Walmart stores nationwide, as it finds an opportunity to provide an alternative to the gelatin- or pectin-based products on the market today, brand CEO Mika Shino told FoodNavigator-USA in a Startup Spotlight interview.

Founded in 2022, Issei Mochi Gummies offers a range of better-for-you vegan chewy candies inspired by the classic Japanese rice cake, made from tapioca rice flour and available in Yuzu, Tangerine, Mango, Strawberry, Vanilla and Watermelon flavors. The gummy candies are also gluten-free.

Recently, the brand launched in 350 Albertsons stores and Walmart stores nationwide as part of Walmart’s Open Call program, Shino said.

Providing a ‘different kind of chew’ with mochi

Shino was inspired to start her brand after searching for a clean-label and better-for-you candy for her children and not finding something that met her qualifications on the market. Issei Mochi Gummies have a “different kind of chew” that “bounces back” over traditional gummy candy.  

"We really launched this and created this very naively. ... I started to bake these sheets of mochi cakes and cutting it into small pieces and telling [my children] it was a gummy candy. And so that is how it started. And for us, the strategy is to share it and hope that people like it as an alternative to the classic gelatin-based or pectin-based gummies," Shino said. 

Issei Mochi Gummies was started as “a celebration of the heritage of all immigrants who come to this country” and honor global flavors and textures, she said. This comes at a time when US consumers are demanding more global flavors and textures, she added.

"The rise of mochi flavors, global flavors and mochi textures — that soft, pillowy texture — is because people are more open. I feel like they are ready to try new flavors. Beyond Asian flavors, the rise of flavors like tajin and horchata and chewy mango and I think more and more we will see flavors from the Middle East, like orange blossom and rosewater, there are so [many] incredible flavors out there that really have not been tapped into, and people are just more open and that really lends itself to true diversity and inclusion."

‘You go rogue, and you try to figure things out your way’

Having no previous food and beverage experience, Shino learned the CPG fundamentals as she went, and she said, experts were “very open and supportive and ready to teach you as a newcomer.”

She also credits part of her success to learning along the way and not being afraid to submit to awards or open-call programs.

Issei Mochi Gummies won the 2024 Most Innovative New Product Award at the Sweets & Snacks Expo for its Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberry Mochi Gummies, its limited-time offering flavor for last winter.

“A lot of people when I first started said, ‘Oh, you need a broker, or you need a budget for PR. You need marketing.’ I did not have any of that. ... I just started to apply for awards, and that is how it started to snowball. So, I feel like when you are starting in an industry  — I mean I knew nothing about the food industry — you go rogue, and you try to figure things out your way.”

She added, “Anybody thinking about trying to get on the shelf [should] just apply to everything, and I mean retailers’ open calls, awards [and] funding. ... We have had an incredible network of support because we applied, and if you do not apply people won’t know that you exist. So, you just have to get out there and try,” Shino said.

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