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Pocky giveaway sweetens San Francisco weekend

Four plastic-wrapped boxes of matcha green tea cream flavored Pocky biscuit sticks sit on a low brick stoop.
Boxes of individual Pocky biscuit sticks were free for the taking late Sunday morning outside a former hacker house along San Francisco’s Union Street corridor. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

Last May, San Francisco AI entrepreneur Kevin Yang became the proud owner of several truckloads of Pocky sticks in chocolate and matcha (green tea), 400,000 packages in all.

"I'd just finished a dinner party when someone showed me an email to a startup accelerator that had the Pocky," said Yang, 26. "I thought, 'Wouldn't it be funny if we took [the] delivery of the Pocky?'"

Why the company had hundreds of thousands of boxes of the Japanese dipped biscuit treats to begin with isn't entirely clear.

"I thought it was a joke at first," said Yang.

But the next thing he knew, an entire wall of the Union Street home he shared with several roommates—all startup workers like Yang—was stacked with Pocky boxes.

Through donations to neighborhood businesses and an epic giveway party late last spring, Yang and his roommates managed to get rid of most of them.

Months later, when it came time to move out of the house, there were still thousands of boxes in the house—2,000 by former resident Jay Xia's count, or 20 cardboard boxes containing 100 each of the 2.47-ounce Pocky packages.

So Xia posted an ad on a Facebook "buy nothing" page to offer up the remaining Pocky sticks to all comers.

Shortly before 11 a.m. Sunday, boxes began exchanging hands, with at least one person briefly double-parked outside in order to carry away the free treats.

"You're catching us right as we take everything down," soon-to-be-former resident Shawn Xu told The Standard on Sunday, leading a reporter upstairs from the sidewalk into the home. "There might be a couple more boxes in the basement, but this is most of it."

A display wall of empty chocolate-flavored Pocky cartons stands floor-to-ceiling in the lobby of a home, with several cardboard boxes of matcha-flavored Pocky at its base.
A display wall of empty chocolate-flavored Pocky cartons stands floor-to-ceiling in the lobby of the home with several cardboard boxes of matcha-flavored Pocky at its base. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

Inside, there were hundreds of empty Pocky boxes glued together to form a wall from floor to ceiling, with only about a dozen full boxes left.

"When people come by, the first thing they noticed was the Pocky wall, and they'd say, 'What's up with the Pocky?' It's a cool addition to the house."

A man wearing glasses and a large smile and dressed in casual clothing stands on tiptoe besides several large wooden pallets containing cardboard boxes full of Pocky biscuit sticks.
Kevin Yang standing beside the multiple pallets of Pocky sticks he managed to obtain in May 2023. | Source: Courtesy Kevin Yang

"I gotta say, I am a big fan of Pocky, but I've had a lot over the last couple months," Xu said. "I think it's still a fun thing. It's a nice treat; I'll still eat it."

Half a dozen casually dressed people stand on a sidewalk as a man brings a cardboard box full of Pocky biscuit sticks down to distribute.
Jake Xia carried several cardboard boxes of Pocky down to distribute for free Sunday to curious onlookers who had seen his post on a Facebook "buy nothing" page. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

Soon after Xia's post Thursday night, supply was suddenly meeting demand, or at least curiosity: "I kind of went viral on Facebook, which I wasn't expecting," Xia said. "Everyone's mostly wondering what the story is. I think that's the biggest point of curiosity. This is just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of event."

A young man with curly brown hair and clear horn-rimmed glasses and wearing a blue sweater stands on a city sidewalk and talks.
Jake Xia told The Standard that his post about Pocky to a local Facebook "buy nothing" page drew curiosity from locals. "Everyone's been nice. Everyone's mostly wondering what the story is." | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

Hayes Valley residents Emma and Ilana, who said they were fans of chocolate-flavored Pocky sticks, said they'd seen the Facebook post and came out to collect a few boxes to go.

When asked if they were fans of Pocky sticks or of free things, the two women answered in unison, "Both!"

"We want to share them with our friends and basically follow in their footsteps and have another Pocky event," Emma said.

Another Pocky-curious person showed up Sunday to take a few boxes away as part of her work for Circle of Inspiration, a nonprofit born from a Facebook page that distributes supplies to communities in need.

READ MORE: Someone Tried To Steal a Van Full of Pocky Sticks in San Francisco

Yang told The Standard that the Pocky giveaway took place as part of an over-production issue following the pandemic, though he didn't offer more details.

"I actually don't really like Pocky, but, long story short, they were giving it away," he said.

The only rational response to the Pocky pileup was to throw a Pocky party. 

Two smling young men stand on a staircase outside a home in front of a brick wall and wooden siding. Both men hold boxes of Pocky biscuit treats.
Kevin Yang and Jake Xia hold one of the last boxes of Pocky that were part of an informal free giveaway session Sunday outside a San Francisco home. | Source: George Kelly/The Standard

"We gave away, like, 67% of it," Yang said.

"We flooded the entire street," Xia added. "Union Street, like ... had Pocky in every shop; they were stocked. We gave away a box, and they were giving the Pocky sticks as coffee stirrers."

According to Pocky's frequently asked questions page, the treat has a 12-month shelf life. But most likely, even expired Pocky sticks are still safe to eat.

George Kelly can be reached at gkelly@sfstandard.com

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