VSn Saturday afternoon in June, around 5 p.m., more than twenty of them crowded in front of the bright pink sign of Larry et la chocolaterie, a small grocery store specializing in the import of American snacks and Japanese, rue de Saintonge, in Paris. Once inside, the young customers – the average age is around 13 – most of them accompanied by their parents, scan the shelves with an expert eye. “Do you have any Fluff left?” », asks a young girl, who has come especially to buy a jar of this amazing marshmallow paste with its Nivean reflections. It was when she saw a promotional video of Larry – the store owner with a thick beard – on TikTok that she wanted to taste this improbable culinary oddity.
“Too good: Watermelon Nerds! »enthuses another teenager at the sight of a small cardboard box in flashy tones. The latter contains sour candies with a watermelon flavor, which are not known to be found in France. A few minutes later, other curiosities with exotic flavors will fill the bottom of his plastic basket, provided by the house: a raspberry flavored Hershey’s chocolate bar, two popcorn Kit Kats, a box of Pocky (the Japanese equivalent of Mikado cookies) with mango and, to wash it all down, a packet of Lay’s brand cucumber crisps. The addition will quickly exceed twenty euros.
The big unboxing
There is something touching in watching these parents tenderly nod their heads before putting their hands in their pockets to please their teenagers. At least this time, some seem to say silently, they weren’t dragged to a K-pop concert or the premiere of the latest American blockbuster. Instead, they landed in a small 20 square meter shop filled with crisps, candy bars, sodas and candies. As if the act of buying and consuming snacks from a distant country had become, for this generation born in the years 2000-2010, a form of cultural activity in itself – in the same way as we can feed on movies, concerts or video games.
Merchandise as an entry point to discover a foreign culture and way of life
As proof, on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok, the videos of snack unboxing are displayed regularly in trend and count millions of views. We see young influencers unpacking boxes filled with American, Japanese or Korean snacks, deciphering the labels and meticulously commenting on their tasting, before procrastinating at length on the originality of the new flavors tested. The merchandise (largely supplied by online grocery stores such as My American Shop, My Candy Shop or My American Market and Candysan) then becomes an entry point for exploring a culture and a way of foreign life. If the French teenagers of the 1990s were content to live theAmerican way of life by proxy, by dreaming of the inaccessible taste of these brands of sodas, crisps or cookies seen in films or television series, those of the 2020s can on the contrary have them delivered, snack on them among peers and, in the end, appropriate them in a much more concrete and spontaneous way.
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