Customers in Tokyo queue for NZ cookies

New Zealand-styled cookies are being crunched by Japanese in a trendy Tokyo shopping precinct.

Canterbury-based snack manufacturer Cookie Time has opened an outlet in Japan, based on its Queenstown retail outlet.

It is Cookie Time brand's first foreign store and is licensed to a Japanese family in a partnership.

The store is in the fashionable Harajuku shopping area within the Shibuya ward of Tokyo.

Cookie time has been operating for about 30 years and its 44 products reach most New Zealand consumers through a distribution chain that includes 6000 outlets including supermarkets, cafes and dairies. It has sales of about $30 million.

It has three brands including Cookie Time, Bumper Bar and One Square Meal.

While the Cookie Time Harajuku store was officially opened yesterday in Tokyo it has been trading since December 20 with daily queues of people waiting to get instore, Cookie Time International Ltd (CTIL) director Lincoln Booth said.

The Harajuku Cookie Bar was a partnership between CTIL and Japanese food distribution business IceCo, led by Joe Aihara and his son Taka, he said. IceCo held the Japanese licence for the Cookie Muncher Cookie Bar concept and would be shipped frozen cookie dough and pre-packaged Cookie Time products.

The dough would be heated in ovens at the store site, Booth said.

The Aiharas had visited New Zealand on many occasions and were interested in Kiwi culture.

Two more Japanese stores were planned by IceCo in the next 12 months, perhaps in Tokyo and Yokohama, and CTIL is also in discussions with potential partners in Thailand and Malaysia.

"We've got two staff from Queenstown that we've brought over to Tokyo to help set up the store," Booth said.

In late 2011 Cookie Time objected to an application by the Chinese Qingdao Chengze Trade Company to patent the Cookie Time corporate logo. The company uses intellectual property lawyers to protect its brand.

The new Tokyo bar used a new Cookie Bar brand based around its Cookie Muncher character. It had a focus on hot cookies and freshly prepared cookie products, along with ice cream and drinks.

The brand evolution was done by CTIL's design team, and the store design concept by Christchurch company Redesign, Booth said.

The Queenstown Cookie Bar would be refreshed with new retail branding over the next six months.

Booth said the response to the first international store had been strong leading into an official opening yesterday, with Booth and company founder Michael Mayell in attendance.

"The Cookie Bar opened with a soft launch as we have been working hard over the last four weeks to complete the full store fit-out, complete staff training and deliver brand merchandise instore. Despite this work in progress, the response has been incredible with daily queues and strong sales," he said.