Aji WOW is my series of unusual Japanese food/drink reviews. 'Aji' (味) means 'flavour', and the name's also a pun on 'ajiwau' (味わう) - 'to enjoy the taste of'.
This time: stress relieving raisin cookie bites.
It's been a while! Sorry for the wait. I haven't eaten anything crazy, or super interesting, for a few weeks. Just normal Japanese foods, and lunches I made myself. But then. Then, winter descended, and the weird stuff returned.
When you see something in the snack bar aisle that claims to reduce your mental stress, you buy it. Especially if you've spotted it on your way to work. Marketing strategy by Tohato is on point. (Interesting tidbit: I mainly known the Tohato brand name because they make caramel corn.)
There are 2 kinds of stress relief cookies. All Raisin Plus, and All Cranberry (Yogurt) Plus. I expect, as with most new Japanese foods, that when one flavour stops selling well they'll pull both.
So. How exactly do these help with stress? First clue, in the name. Plus! 'All Raisin' has been a Tohato product for a while. The 'Plus' is pretty new. This is Tohato's first ever 'food with demonstratable functionality for health purposes'. Because, y'know, it's not like we need to eat to live or anything...
The not-so-secret ingredient here is GABA. Gamma Amino Butyric Acid. A 'chief inhibitory neurotransmitter' in the central nervous system (thanks, Wikipedia). It's taken as a mood enhancer, to reduce PMS, to treat ADHD, and lessen anxiety. So far, so good...?
All Raisin Plus has been 'approved' as a food which may be expected to have positive health benefits, in line with Tohato's implied corporate responsibility. It hasn't been formally tested or certified as a health food.
Alright, let's give it a go anyway.
Apparently the GABA is mixed into the cookie batter, along with the fruit. Packs contain slightly more than double the recommended GABA intake for 1 day. But are they for daily consumption? Thankfully, nope.
When you take a look at the small print, these are for 'temporary' stresses caused by work and studying. And the kanji used mean more like 'alleviation' or 'softening'. So this isn't like medication in cookie form. You might still feel stressed, just not as much.
I tried out the raisin ones, on an evening when I felt mildly stressed. Each pack is only 140 calories. And that's because there are only 7-ish bites in there.
Well, there should be 10 in there, if Tohato's being fair. The recommended serving is half the pack, 5 pieces. I ate the whole lot in one sitting.
Did I feel any better? The big question. Weirdly, yes. I did feel calmer afterwards. But I don't know if that's solely because of All Raisin Plus. The nice sit down (and accompanying cup of tea) definitely played a part.
The raisin bites don't taste like cookies, exactly, they're more soft and crunchy-chewy. A bit like a breakfast bar. That'll be why they were in the same aisle, then.
Wait, wait, wait. I can tell you exactly what these are like.
They're bite-sized fig rolls. I was never that keen on those as a kid. Fig rolls only got eaten if there were no more chocolate biscuits left. Mind you, I'd take a fig roll over a custard cream any day. Feels like the changes in my tastebuds as a grown-up have made the taste more palatable.
I still have the cranberry yogurt cookies left to eat, and I'm sure they'll be just the same. When I passed by the aisle again a few days after, there were only 2 packs left. Either stress relief food sells like weirdly calming hotcakes, or they're being phased out already...
Verdict: 8/10. The stress is gone, but the memory of fig rolls lingers.