Aji Ichiban, one of the largest and most beloved snack food franchises in Hong Kong, has closed all stores in the city.
According to local broadcaster RTHK, a spokesman for the snack chain said the fall in tourist numbers caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made it impossible for the company to continue operating.
He said that its final four branches in the city closed last night, after their leases expired. The spokesman added that there were around 10 frontline staff working at the outlets and they were aware of the news of the stores’ closing beforehand.
Established in 1993, the chain has become popular among locals and tourists, with shoppers able to mix and match different snacks including pork and beef jerkys, wasabi peas, jellies and chocolates.
Despite having a Japanese character in its Chinese name, Aji Ichiban is not a Japanese franchise.
It fell out of popularity in recent years due to the products getting more expensive and customers no longer being able to mix and match the snacks.
Many netizens are now lamenting not only the loss of the store’s beloved snacks but also a source of many fond childhood memories.
Some also expressed concerns about the choice of snacks for those in jail, as the brand’s pork and beef jerkys were one of only a few types of snacks they are allowed to receive from friends and family.
On Tuesday evening, the Hong Kong Correctional Services updated its website with black pepper beef jerky or honey pork jerky from Wan Yuen listed as approved snacks in place of the jerkys from Aji Ichiban.
Aji Ichiban is the latest victim of the pandemic-era difficulties faced by many in the retail and F&B industries.
Just last week, the operator of the Jumbo Floating Restaurant in Aberdeen announced its exit from the city after 46 years.