While in France we have to be content in our supermarkets with milk chocolate or even white chocolate flavors, in Japan, the little Nestle candy bar is available in alluring versions: the Kit Kat flavor green tea, cherry blossom flavor, red beans. or even chestnuts are on the rise and every year the firm offers new and more unusual recipes on the Japanese market. But where does this notoriety come from on Japanese territory? Back on the little history of Kit Kat in the Land of the Rising Sun…
Kit Kat candy bars are available in all sauces in Japan. Better yet, a museum has been dedicated to him in Tokyo… But why does it make the Japanese so fond of him?
The Kit Kat candy bar, a good luck for Japanese students
In Japanese, the term “Kit Kat” is pronounced ” Kitto Katto “, which is strongly reminiscent of the expression ” Kitto Katsu “, used by Japanese students to give themselves courage, especially before an important exam. This roughly means “you will succeed, there’s no doubt about it!”. “We could say that it is the equivalent by us of a good old “shit” well placed to wish good luck to a loved one.
Obviously, this coincidence made Nestle happy, who saw it as a good opportunity to play fully on the marketing of its chocolate bars. Thus, the company had the idea to put on sale on the Japanese territory a box of Kit Kat “special exam”: this one is sold in the posts of the country and the custom is to send it directly to a relative who is about to take an exam. The operation launched by Nestle was a phenomenal success and if today it is no longer really relevant, at the time, it was covered en masse in the press and on television.
After that, it was only natural that the brand Kit Kat, in addition to wearing happiness, has become the most sold confectionery brand in Japan even before passing certain products of Japanese origin. Imagine: more than 22,000 Japanese post offices took part in the operation across all the prefectures of the country!
The Japanese-style Kit Kat brand
If at the base the Kit Kat is not a brand from Japan, we can say that with this master stroke, Nestle has done a lot, even allowing its chocolate bars to pass themselves off as a typical product of the Japanese territory! Because today, if the Kit Kat candy bar has declined in various forms, constantly renewing itself, it is also considered as a “regional” confectionery. You should know that in Japan, we love to travel within countries, so the country’s prefectures are redoubling their efforts to be as attractive as possible. Kit Kat has a role to play here too: Hokkaido for example holds the recipe for Kit Kat with melon, while Kyoto holds that of Kit Kat at Uji Matcha.
Each region of Japan is thus represented by one or more very specific versions of the Kit Kat; we make new recipes with local products and it is only there that it is possible to buy these special editions.
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Kit Kat Chocolatery and the KitKat Museum
In January 2014, in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, the very first boutique 100% dedicated to the Kit Kat brand in the world opened. So, it is not really a store strictly speaking but rather a large stand based in a shopping center, but all the same: it welcomes many buyers every day and the exclusivity that revolves around him only increased the popularity of the chocolate bar among the Japanese.
In 2016, we dedicated a museum to the brandin the heart of Tokyo. Called the Nestle Cafe KitKat Museum, this quirky establishment features over 300 different Kit Kat candy bar products as well as the increasingly original packaging that goes with it.
Where does Kit Kat’s incredible success come from in Japan?
The history of the brand in Japan is something to dream of … It is said that Kit Kat first benefited from a stroke of luck, thanks to the similarity of its name with the Japanese expression ” Kitto Katsu “, which means “You will undoubtedly succeed!”. It did not take more for the brand to seize the opportunity and position itself as “the chocolate of luck”, to send to his friend or his nephew to wish him success in his exams.
In a society where academic success is fundamental, Kit Kat quickly became a lucky charm. The chocolate brand was even able to partner with the Japanese post office: it was possible to write the address of the person to whom we wanted to wish good luck on the Kit Kat box displayed on the post office counter and hand it over directly to the postman! This is how a foreign brand has managed to make itself visible to the Japanese public and even to integrate completely into the events of everyday life of the inhabitants.
Popular lucky charm of candy bar
Success comes quickly in particular because of the pronunciation, in Japanese, of KitKat which can be said “Kitto Katsu”, or “succeed without a doubt”. The candy has become a lucky charm to offer to the student who is going to take an exam.
Noting the success of KitKat candy bar, whose sales in Japan were multiplied by 1.5 between 2010 and 2016 and exceeded those in Great Britain, Nestlé is developing new flavors to adapt it to the functioning of “konbini”, convenience stores. whose particularity is to renew at a high rate the range of products offered.
The first scented KitKat was the strawberry one in 2000. Then, in 2003, came the melon one from Yubari, the town of Hokkaido known for producing the best melons in the archipelago. “It was a test,” recalls Ryoji Maki, marketing director of Nestlé Japan, “but we realized that this derivative of KitKat had become a real souvenir bought in the region.”
Multiplication of flavors candy bar
Nestlé then multiplies the different flavors, such as the Shinshu apple, the ancient name of the Nagano region. There are now more than 300. “At the beginning, we offered them at airports,” explains Ryoji Maki. Today, they are found in konbinis. ”
For foreign tourists, the group imagines the green tea KitKat, which is a huge success, and now the Tokyo Banana flavored one. “We worked on it for a year,” explains Satoshi Noguchi. We made a hundred prototypes before finding the right formula. ” For Grapestone, a company created in 1978, it is a means of expanding internationally. “We want Tokyo Banana to become known beyond Asia,” explains Satoshi Noguchi.
As for KitKat, the brand is also establishing itself in the high-end market. A collaboration with the famous pastry chef Yasumasa Takagi made it possible in 2010 to develop a whole range offered in “Chocolatory” stores, which are multiplying in Japan and are also exported by playing “made in Japan”. There are some in Australia, Malaysia and since the end of October in Seoul.
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