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History of Kit-Kat in Japan

Posted by Swan Domergue on

History of Kit-Kat in Japan

The History of Kit-Kat

Kit- Kat is a chocolate treat that consist of a three layers chocolate wafer covered with a unctuous and tasty chocolate.

The chocolate bar was developed in 1935 by the company Rowntree's based in York in the United Kingdom. Originally it was a four-fingers crunchy bar easy snapped and sharable,  topped with a tasty milk chocolate. In 1936 a smaller two-finger version was launched and became really popular especially among the workmen who could have a quick, tasty and cheap snack during their work shift without waiting for the lunch break to satiate their hunger.

Today, Kit-Kat is one of the most famous and sold chocolate bar in the world. Existing in various sizes, shapes and flavours, it satisfies everyday the cravings of children and adults all over the 5 continents of the earth.

 

 

 

The history of Kit-Kat - Konbinisan

Timeline of Kit-Kat

1911

The english confectionery company Rowntree’s, thought about the cool name of "Kit-Kat" or "Kit-Cat" for one of their futur treat.

1920s
Rowntree's decided to give the name of Kit-Cat to their new assortment boxes of various chocolates.
1935
The first four-fingered wafer is made by Rowntree’s, and named of though it’s "Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp", (not Kit Kat). The idea between this new treat is to offer a cheap (due to the waffer use) and easy to carry snack to the working class.
1937
"Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp" is one of the company's best seller, becoming really popular it is even endorsed by Churchill's government who promote it as a healthy and cheap wartime food. The fans adopt the nickname of Kit-Kat to call their new favourite treat.
1941
We are in the middle of World War II, the food shortages and the economic crisis pushed Rowntree's to change their strategy and develop a new version of the Kit-Kat made from dark chocolate and wrapped into a blue package mentioning the advert "No More Chocolate Crisp Till After The War"
Rowntree's Kit Kat World War II - Konbinisan
1945
Armistice was signed, the world is in peace and Rowntree's kept is promise by making again the "Kit-Kat" based on milk chocolate and reverting the wrapper to its original red color.
1949
The name Chocolate Crisp is finally dropped and Kit Kat becomes the official name.
1950s
The growing success of Kit Kat encourage Rowntree's to expands their flagship  product to the previous British colonies such as  Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. This is also the decade the slogan "Have a break, have a Kit-Kat" is born.
1970s
The chocolate bar continues its world conquest and reaches two of the biggest economic zones of the world : Europe and North America !
1973
Kit Kat finally reaches Japan thanks to an important partnership with the Japanese Confectionary company, Fujiya. The chocolate bar is now sold in all the economic world powers.
1988
Rowntree’s is acquired by the giant agrifood group Nestle from Switzerland.
 
2000s
Kit-Kat reaches its top sales in a country where it was barrely introduced...JAPAN  !
Why ?...🧐

Kit-Kat in Japan

Nowadays, Japan is still the country where the famous two-finger chocolate bar is the most popular, it is quite intriguing when you know that Kit-Kat was introduced to Japan pretty late and that japanese are some of the smallest consumers of chocolate in the world. Let see where this success comes from...

 

The culture of Omiyage

In english we can translate the word Omiyage (お土産) to "souvenir". Nevertheless, Omiyage is a real tradition in Japan. Indeed, when a japanese person will travel abroad or even in Japan, for whatever the reason (tourism, business trip and so on...) he will automatically bring an Omiyage to his friends, families and co-workers. An Omiyage can be anything, however most of the japanese travelers will usually buy and offer a box of the traditional treats made in the region that they just visited.

Nestle took advantage of this tradition, and developed in the 2000s a strawberry flavoured limited edition of the Kit-Kat that has been exclusively sold on the island of Hokkaido renown for the agriculture of their tasty Azuki Strawberries. Their goal was to turn the basic and normal chocolate bar into a real traditional japanese Omiyage, and it worked ! The Azuki Strawberries Kit-Kat were sold out few days their appearance in the various super markets shelves and satisfied the curiousity and the tastes of the consumers !

 

Azuki Strawberry Kit-Kat - Konbinisan

A meaningful name

Another important tradition in Japan is to offer a various range of products that are supposed to bring luck and fortune to its receiver every New Year Day. After realizing that the sales of Kit-Kat were particularly high during this period, Nestle tried to find out the reason why...

Japanese is a language based on two syllabaries (hiragana and katakana). In japanese you litterally pronouce Kit-Kat as "Kitto-Katsu" (キットカッツ), such a marketing opportunity for the brand when you know that the words Kitto (きっと) and Katsu (勝つ) mean "Surely Going to Win" !!!

Therefore, without even knowing, Nestle created a new tradition in Japan that consist of offering Kit-Kat to the persons you would like to wish help to.

Obviously the Swiss confectionary brand did not hesitate to capitalize on this trend by launching some new limited versions of Kit-Kat and build partnership with different companies and associations. It came to a point that nowadays, thousands of parents are buying Kit-Kat to their student kids to wish them good luck before thei take their exams !

 

The country of innovation

It's not a secret for anyone, Japan is the country of new technology and innovation ! This is obviously due to its huge economic growth in the 70s but also to a specific will of continuous changing from the population. 

This fact also explain the boom of the chocolate industry after World War II, since chocolate was not really present in the japanese culture before the american occupation. However, as we said, chocolate is not really often consumed in Japan insofar as the chocolate culture is pretty new. In contrary to countries such as Switzerland or Belgium, the people in Japan are not really committed to the taste or the quality of the chocolate, however they will better enjoy a large range of chocolate.

This is why it was not too risky for Nestle to develop some various types of Kit-Kat chocolates to satisfy their clients.

 

A business culture where "Range" means a lot

Japan is the world's third economic power, it's a rich country where the purchasing power is pretty high. Nevertheless, the golden age of Japan is now behind and the innequalities in the country exist. In such a capitalistic country, the term "range" is really important in all business plans. This is why it is not rare to find stores in Japan that sell a huge quality and pricing range of the same product, such as Donkihote that we have accurately decribed in our previous article.

For example it is common to find a high quality of apple that cost around 20$/pcs. That goes wilt all kinds of product : Garnment, jewels, phones, alcohol and...Kit-Kat !

Yes, you are reading correctly, some luxury ranges of Kit-Kat have been successfuly selling in Japan.

The best example is probably the Kit-Kat Ruby, made from a pink cocoa bean and qualified as the fourth type of chocolate !

 

Ruby cocoabean Kit-Kat - Konbinisan

 What about Konbinisan

After reading this article, you probably understood that Kit-Kat is not only a chocolate bar in Japan. The treat is now an integral part of the japanese culture and exist in hundreds different flavors that are exclusively sold in Japan.

In Konbinisan, we would like to share our passion for the Japanese culture and our adoration for the Kit-Kat with you, and this is why we are proposing a huge range of different Kit-Kat in our catalog to bring a mix of Japanese and Occidental culture directly on your shelf !

Feel free to contact us anytime for any information about our Kit-Kat and note that lot of varieties are limited editions, get yours quickly !

 

 

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