South Korean millennials embark upon obsessive hunt for Pokemon bread

A popular snack makes a glorious return.

April 10, 2022, 3:02 PM

SEOUL, South Korea -- The blaring roar of cars, brisk footsteps of office workers, and the vibrant voices of children echo through a dim grocery store parking lot. It's four in the morning, and most of the city is sound asleep. But this corner of Seoul is buzzing with excitement as people try to get their hands on the most-wanted treat in South Korea's capital at the moment: Pokémon bread

Dozens of people are standing in line in front of the store's entrance. Some spread out newspaper and cardboard boxes on the floor to rest their legs after hours of waiting for the store to open. Competition is fierce; there are only 100 packages in stock each day.

PHOTO: People lined up to buy Pokemon bread on a Sunday morning before a wholesale mart opening hours, Yongin, South Korea, April 9, 2022.
People lined up to buy Pokemon bread on a Sunday morning before a wholesale mart opening hours, Yongin, South Korea, April 9, 2022.
ABC News

A new consumption craze has ignited in South Korea. Day and night, Korean millennials and Gen Z members race to local markets, chase delivery trucks, and join hour-long lines for Pokémon bread -- only to run into sold-out signs plastered on walls and windows.

"I visited over ten convenience stores looking for Pokémon bread," 13-year-old Joon-su Kim, who said he woke up at 4 a.m. to line up at the grocery store, told ABC News.

PHOTO: Teenagers who bought Pokemon breads stand in front of the wholesale store with bread in hands, Yongin, South Korea, April 9, 2022.
Teenagers who bought Pokemon breads stand in front of the wholesale store with bread in hands, Yongin, South Korea, April 9, 2022.
ABC News

Pokémon bread is a $1.20 snack wrapped in Pokémon packaging that comes with cute character stickers. The brand offers seven types of pastries to choose from, including creamy cheesecake and rich chocolate cake. The Pokémon sticker in the package is random and adds a pleasant surprise to the experience.

The cake first came to Seoul's snack stands in 1998 and was popular among teenagers who bought the bread to complete their sticker collection. The production came to a halt in 2006 due to license issues.

The bread made a glorious comeback Feb. 24 this year and achieved a record -- selling over 8.4 million packages in less than 40 days.

"I have fond memories of collecting Pokémon bread stickers when I was in elementary school. I was thrilled to hear that they were producing it again and decided to wait in line this morning to try it out," 35-year-old Min-soo Park told ABC News.

PHOTO: A teenager introduces Pokemon breads he bought in  Yongin, South Korea, April 9, 2022.A teenager introduces Pokemon breads he bought in  Yongin, South Korea, April 9, 2022.
A teenager introduces Pokemon breads he bought in Yongin, South Korea, April 9, 2022.
ABC News

Apart from the nostalgia for millennials, the enthusiasm spilled over to a larger group of consumers -- from elementary school to college students -- after the bread took over the Internet.

Avid Korean millennials are posting photos of their Pokémon sticker collections online, spurring a viral social media challenge to acquire all 159 stickers. Some are trading stickers and even pay up to 60 times the original value for rarer ones.

"Many of my friends wanted to know how I was able to buy Pokémon bread after I posted a picture of it on Instagram. It's really hard to find," 22-year-old Son Yeeun told ABC News.

PHOTO: A Pokemon bread sticker collection is displayed in Seoul, South Korea.
A Pokemon bread sticker collection is displayed in Seoul, South Korea.
ABC News

Even top K-pop stars, such as BTS's Jin and Girl's Day's Mina, have joined the challenge.

PHOTO: Pokemon bread collection by an individual consumer is displayed in Seoul, South Korea.
Pokemon bread collection by an individual consumer is displayed in Seoul, South Korea.
ABC News

"Pokémon bread enjoys its explosive popularity because it evokes nostalgia and rejuvenates millennials," Professor Lee Eun Hee from the Department of Consumer Science at Inha University told ABC News. "It's also a social media meme that brings various generations together."

PHOTO: A teenager holds up a Pokemon bread sticker he collected from a Pokemon bread in Yongin , South Korea.
A teenager holds up a Pokemon bread sticker he collected from a Pokemon bread in Yongin , South Korea.
ABC News
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