Taste Test

Snack Critic: Are These Regent Snacks the Cheaper Tohato Alternative We’ve Been Looking For?

February 16, 2017

Japanese snacks continue to gain popularity among the Japan-obsessed (read: me) and the food-obsessed (read: also me) with serious afternoon munchies. One classic Japanese snack in particular is Tohato Caramel Corn: corn-based snacks that come in different flavors, all covered with a sweet glaze. It sounds like a simple combination, but with their ultra-light texture and tasty flavors, they are insanely addictive. In Manila, these snacks can typically be found at Japanese groceries or other Japan-hailing stores such as Saizen (owned by Daiso). Being imported however, they don’t come the cheapest—for example, at Saizen in Trinoma mall, they’re peddled at 88 bucks a bag. Even worse, they’re not always available, making it difficult to get our Caramel Corn fix as often as we’d like. (Great for our stomachs, not for our hearts.)

So imagine our surprise when we were at the local supermarket snack aisle and saw similar snacks from Regent. We’re not accusing them of blatant copying, but from the flavors and packaging, it’s hard not to draw a comparison with the Japanese corn-based snack. Much cheaper than their Japanese counterparts at P13.50 per bag (at SM Marketplace), we wondered: could they be the answer to our unfulfilled Tohato Caramel Corn hankerings? Could they save us tons of cash as we munch our way through countless bags?

Tohato Caramel Corn

Tohato’s “default” variant is flavored not just caramel or corn, but also roasted peanuts. There are no visible nut bits to be found so I will assume they’ve been mixed and fused into the snack pieces themselves. Covered in a caramel glaze, a delicate puff awaits within. It crumbles at the slightest nibble and leaves its peanut-y essence as it dissipates on the tongue.

Regent Caramel Corn

Regent’s Caramel Corn takes on a similar U-shape but is about twice the size. There is no hint or reference to peanut at all; this stays closer to its “caramel corn” name with corn-based puffs enveloped in a supposed caramel that reeks of butter flavoring (you’ll find it in the ingredients) instead of burnt sugar, but isn’t bad at all. The texture is very different too: this one resists the pressure of the teeth with an crisp but solid crunch that satisfies the need to chomp on something in the afternoon.

Tohato Caramel Corn, Matcha

With the trendiness of the Japanese green tea, it’s no surprise that Matcha is among Tohato Caramel Corn’s most popular flavor variations. Each piece carries a similar lightness, maybe slightly denser and bigger in an olive-y green close to Pantone’s shade of the year. The matcha flavor works its way gradually, releasing its earthiness as you chew and contributing a bittersweetness that endures, even after you’ve swallowed.

Regent Matcha Milk

Regent’s mint-green puffs, on the other hand, hardly gives off any of the earthiness or bitterness associated with matcha. If you’ve ever had these fruit drop candies also by Regent, you’ll know there’s this one candy in the bag that’s meant to be green tea-flavored but instead tastes oddly medicinal and bubblegum-y. These snacks make use of that same medicine-like flavoring they probably keep in the factory, but finishes with a creaminess that hints at the “milk” part. Somehow we enjoyed this though—maybe it’s the crunch (similar in form to Regent Caramel Corn) or the mild sweetness, and before we knew it we had finished the entire bag.

the verdict

Regent’s is no carbon copy. It has its own flavor and style: offering a heartier crunch to offset the sweetness as opposed to Tohato’s feather-light signatures, Regent’s creations feel far more substantial as a snack. But in no way do we think this is a bad thing; Regent clearly sets themselves apart here. We say just save your cash and stock up when you find them if you really, really after true Tohato goodness; that being said, give Regent’s snacks a chance. They’re tasty in their own unique way, and we’re in love with them in their own right.

Patricia Baes SEE AUTHOR Patricia Baes

Trish thinks too much about everything—truth, existence.....and what’s on her plate. Her ongoing quest for a better relationship with food has led to a passion for cooking, gastronomy, and a newfound interest in its politics. She dreams of perfecting the art of making soufflé with her crappy toaster oven.

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