Not-Completely-Healthy Japanese Veggie Snack Shop Opens at Westfield

Categories: Opening

Calbee's new store outside the Westfield Food Emporium
​Calbee, the biggest snack food company in Japan, is opening its first overseas retail store at the Westfield San Francisco Centre, where it will be selling a new line of BeeMee vegetable snacks.

Calbee claims that its vegetable sticks are a "heart-healthy snack." Its brochure includes terms like "wholesome," "all natural," and "packed with vitamins and minerals." The company website also claims its goal is "harnessing what nature has to offer ... and contributing to healthier lifestyles." But how healthy are these snacks, really?

At the media opening last night, SF Weekly overheard various theories about how the veggie snacks are made. "I think it should be healthier. It's baked, right?" one guest said. Another suggested, "They seem dehydrated, because they feel really dry." Only one hit close to the truth. "They're too oily," she said.

Calbee's publicity photo goes for a fresh-salad look by putting fresh carrots and parsley behind its vegetable sticks.
​In fact, the BeeMee snacks are deep fried, according to coordinator Koji Shinshi. So how healthy are they? "Not completely healthy," Shinshi admits.

Store director Tomoko Mase took a different tack. "We don't emphasize them as a healthy snack," she said, "It's more about a balanced lifestyle. Every woman knows it's fried, but sometimes you can enjoy." She added that while they obviously aren't as healthy as raw vegetables, the BeeMee snacks are a "healthier choice within the snack food options."

But are they? Nutrition-label comparison shows that the BeeMee snacks are about on par with other labels. For a one-ounce serving (around 12 chips):

Lay's Potato Chips: 160 calories, 10 g fat, 170 mg sodium

Nachos Cheesier Flavored Tortilla Chips: 140 calories, 7g fat, 200 mg sodium

BeeMee Teriyaki Sticks: 130 calories, 6 g fat, 240 mg sodium

BeeMee Purple Mix Snaps: 160 calories, 13 g fat, 60 mg sodium

In comparison, Just Veggies, which are dehydrated, have 100 calories, 1 g fat, and 40 mg sodium per serving.

All of Calbee's BeeMee snacks are made from vegetables, but perhaps not surprisingly, the "sticks" and "snaps" categories aren't as healthy as those categorized as "veggies." The Island Special Veggies, which are made from Japanese Annouimo sweet potatoes, are the healthiest, with only 25 mg of sodium per serving and a high vitamin C content (35 percent of the daily recommended intake).

Interestingly, the company name Calbee is supposed to come from "Cal-cium" and "Vitamin-B," but most of the snacks on offer have only 2 percent of the daily recommended calcium intake, and none of them have any vitamin B.

So at the end of the day, the new Calbee store is adorable, the servers are friendly, and the snacks are yummy, just not quite as healthy as they are purported to be. If you want to try the new Japanese snacks and nutritional content matters to you, go for the BeeMee veggies instead of the sticks or snaps.

The store is already open, but Calbee's grand opening on Sunday (July 10) includes a contests, free gifts, and a "Character Name Contest" to name the girl on the advertising displays.

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865 Market, San Francisco, CA

Category: General

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Of course, a strict vegan diet is not healthy. So Calbee is right in terms of balancing your diet.


Just a warning that on opening day Calbee was charging 9.5% sales tax.  The cashier did not know the sales tax was reduced to 8.5% effective July 1, and even asked me "if I live here".  She did not apologize, did not offer to take off 1%, did not make any other concession, and did not ask a manager for help.  Typical uninformed and ignorant customer service.  I was in a rush and didn't want to make a big deal, but it's service and business practices like Calbee's that are just plain self-destructive.

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