A choco pie is a snack cake consisting of two small round layers of cake with marshmallow filling with chocolate covering. The term originated in America but is now also used in other parts of South Korea as either a brand name or a generic term. Names for similar confections in other places include chocolate marshmallow pie, Wagon Wheels, angel pie, and moon pie.
Variations of the original go back to as far as 1917 in the southern United States. In 1929, Chattanooga Bakery created the Moon Pie with marshmallow filling and Graham crackers for local miners in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
In 1973, a member of the R&D team of the Korean firm Tongyang Confectionery visited a hotel in Georgia, US, and was inspired by the chocolate-coated sweets available in the hotel's restaurant, He returned to South Korea and began experimenting with a chocolate biscuit cake, creating the choco pie as it is known to Koreans. The name "Choco Pie" became popular when Tongyang first released the Orion Choco Pie, and was well received by Korean children as well as the elderly because of its affordable price and white marshmallow filling. Tongyang Confectionery later renamed the company Orion Confectionery thanks to the success of the Orion Choco Pie brand.
In 1979 Lotte Confectionery began to sell a similar confection. When Lotte Confectionery put the Lotte Choco Pie on the market, it chose to spell the prefix 'Cho' slightly differently in Hangul from how Tongyang was spelling it. Haitai and Crown Confectionery also began selling their own versions of choco pies. In 1999, after many years of sales of different "Choco Pie" products, Tongyang (Orion) filed a lawsuit against Lotte for their use of the term "Choco Pie", claiming the name was their intellectual property. The court ruled, however, that Tongyang was responsible for having allowed its brand name to become, over time, a generic trademark and that the term "choco pie" was to be considered a common noun due to its generic descriptive sense in reference to confections of similar composition.
In 2016, Orion released a banana-flavored Choco Pie to celebrate its 60th anniversary. It is the first variation of the original product in 42 years since the company launched the Choco Pie with marshmallow cream in 1974.
Starting in the 2000s, Orion began using the Choco Pie to gain a foothold in foreign markets, and now controls a two-thirds share of the Chinese snack market, with a third of Orion's revenue coming from outside Korea in 2006. Around 12.1 billion Choco Pies have been sold all over the world.[clarification needed]
Orion has a share in four major markets – South Korea, Russia, Vietnam and China. The snack has also been particularly successful in Pakistan, India, Vietnam and Taiwan. Additionally, it has become a favorite snack of North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and has come to symbolize capitalism. In 2010, The Chosun Ilbo reported that choco pies could fetch as much as US$9.50 on the North Korean black market.
Exports of choco pies to North Korea have been very popular, with the snack used in lieu of hard cash in paying North Korean Worker bonuses. North Korean workers at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in North Korea receive choco pies as part of their compensation. Prior to the closing of the complex during the 2013 Korean crisis, workers received up to 20 choco pies per day in addition to their wages. The workers would often resell the pies on the black market. In the wake of the 2013 shutdown of the Kaesung complex, the price of a choco pie in North Korea skyrocketed, with the snack being the subject of financial speculation. After the complex resumed operations after a five-month halt, workers were cut back to a maximum of two choco pies per day.
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