By Kim Jae-won
Pepero might be a small chocolate-dipped wafer stick, but it greatly contributes to increasing the sales of its maker, Lotte Confectionery.
About 65 percent of the annual sales for the snack are concentrated on and around Pepero Day, which falls on Nov. 11. The sweets maker posted monthly sales of 10 billion won for the first time in October 2004, with the figure since shooting up.
Pepero was the second-best-selling product among dried products for Lotte in Korea, generating 55 billion won, or 7 percent of its total sales, last year alone. The company's total sales in 2008 were 1.2 trillion won.
"October is the best-selling month because of Pepero Day," a Lotte official said.
Pepero Day is when friends and lovers give chocolate-covered sticks to each other.
Lotte benefited immensely when one day many years ago middle and high school girls in Busan lined up to receive Pepero sticks. The chocolate sticks, forming the date Nov. 11, saw the girls decide to exchange the snack every year to remember their friendship.
And the tradition caught on.
"I bought a box of Pepero to share it with my co-workers. I just do it to celebrate this day," office worker Kim Ji-young told The Korea Times in Yeouido, Wednesday.
"For colleagues, I just buy simple and cheap ones. But for a special person I will buy better ones that have many decorations even if it costs a lot."
The prices of Pepero range from 1,000 to 60,000 won.
"This year, cheaper ones are selling well, but expensive ones aren't," a general manager at a GS 25 Yeouido Paragon store said.
"The total sales this year are less than previous years. We usually sell 1.2 million won worth per day this week, but now it is just 700,000 won a day."
The Ministry for Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has tried to ride Pepero Day's glory, making the same day "Garaetteok" Day in 2006 to stimulate sales of rice. Garaetteok is Korea's traditional rice cake.