A home breadmaking machine that grinds rice and bakes a loaf of fresh bread at the push of a button has proved such a hit in Japan that its maker, overwhelmed by demand, will temporarily stop taking orders less than three weeks after putting the machine on sale.
Despite a hefty price of around 50,000 yen ($600), Sanyo Electric Co said on Thursday that orders for its Gopan breadmaker were likely to hit 58,000 by the end of the month, its original sales target for the end of March next year.
Though a Sanyo spokeswoman said she thought novelty was behind the machine's popularity, food analyst Hisao Nagayama attributed it to changing eating habits -- a trend toward more Western food and busy lives that make it harder to find the time to cook rice, consumption of which has gone down.
"People can eat the bread easily and it tastes good. But Japanese have been eating rice for thousands of years, so there's something about this bread that's satisfying down to the levels of our DNA," he said.
Users place ordinary washed rice and other ingredients in the Gopan, whose name is a combination of the Japanese for "rice" and "bread," and press the start button. The machine does the rest, from milling the rice to the kneading, rising and baking that other home breadmaking machines also do. Concerns about food safety and allergies are also part of is popularity, Nagayama added.
"There's a lot of people who are getting more nervous about what's in their food, especially things like bread that could contain additives. This allows them to see exactly what goes in."
Sanyo is likely to resume taking orders for the Gopan next April after beefing up production.
Japan has experimented with rice and bread before, most notably the hamburger chain that offers the "rice burger" -- in which a hamburger patty is sandwiched between two halves of a "bun" made out of pressed rice.