MATH in the News

Each week we'll post a math problem based on a current news story. Read the story and solve the problem.

Full shelves of snacks are becoming scarce in Japan due to a potato shortage.
Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Snack Shortage
By Jennifer Hackett
Percents: Japan’s facing a potato chip crisis due to a bad crop of potatoes.

The crunch of potato chips is a staple at lunchtime around the world—especially Japan. There, you can find potato-chip flavors from pizza to plum. But after four strong storms called typhoons struck the province of Hokkaido last August, the popular snack is growing scarce. The typhoons caused a weak potato crop in Hokkaido, which grows 80 percent of Japan’s potatoes. The resulting potato price hikes and shortages caused the Nikkei, a Japanese newspaper, to dub the situation a “Potato Crisis.”

Last Monday, Calbee, one of the major snack food companies in Japan, announced that it will temporarily stop selling 15 different kinds of potato chips due to the shortage. The company makes the most popular snacks in Japan. Fans of certain flavors such as French salad, pizza, and consommé (a rich broth flavor) rushed to stock up, resulting in bare shelves at grocery stores.

Calbee hopes to get potato chips back on the shelves by relying on potato imports from the United States and by asking farmers in Kyushu, another produce growing region in Japan, to harvest their potato crops early. Some snack making companies in Japan, however, refuse to or cannot use imported potatoes due to strict regulations meant to protect Japanese farmers.

The most devoted potato chip fans can still find their favorite flavors—for a cost. Bags of temporarily cancelled Calbee potato chip flavors have appeared on auction sites like Yahoo! Japan or online shopping sites like Mercari, but for 2 to 6 times their normal retail price.


The normal retail price for a bag of Calbee chips is 140 yen per bag. A bag of pizza-flavored Calbee chips up for auction on Yahoo! Japan sold for 1250 yen. What is the percent change in the price of a bag of pizza-flavored Calbee potato chips due to the potato shortage? Round your answer to the nearest whole percent.

Check Your Answer

(1250 – 140) ÷ 140 = 7.928
7.928 x 100 = 792.8 ≈ 793

The percent change in the price of a bag of potato chips is 793%.