Part of my planning for my trip to Japan is working out what presents I intend to bring back for my family. As you can imagine being away from home for so long will entail several bribes!
My wife has yet to decide what gift she’d like, my youngest son wants a Japan rugby shirt, however my eldest son was 100% certain on what he wanted..”Can you bring back a Kit Kat?”
Now, for me, the Kit Kat, a chocolate covered wafer biscuit, that comes in either 4 or 2 finger bars, is 100% English and not at all a treat from the Far East. I can buy hundreds from the local shop in milk chocolate or sometimes the rather exotic “Mint flavour”. It’s up there with a cup of tea, cricket on the village green and warm beer.
From a marketing perspective, I’ve long loved the Kit Kat brand, which has famously reinvented itself since the 1930’s and stayed in the public eye, while other chocolate treats have long since disappeared from the biscuit barrel (dare I mention 5,4,3,2,1 or Trio, 80’s staple choc treats). Famous for its “Have a break, have a Kit Kat” slogan, its tongue in cheek adverts on British TV, it was a staple for me growing up, watching roller skating Panda’s, Angels and Devils sharing a Kit Kat on a tea break to an awful band audition taking a break (and a Kit Kat) with the Cowell-esque record producer…it was a fun way to sell a 4 finger chocolate wafer bar.
Produced in the UK since the early 1900’s I was certainly confused why my son wanted a Kit Kat from Japan. So, I had to ask that question “why a Kit Kat?”, thinking he’d lost his mind or never realised the service station down the road sold them down road for 80p.
I then got an education from my son about how he’d seen Wasabi flavoured Kit Kat mentioned on YouTube and he’d always wanted to see what it tasted like.
Further digging, out of chocolate curiosity, made me realised Japan had adopted this chocolate treat over the last few decades, raised it as its own and elevated it to another artform with over 300 distinct flavours including Wasabi, Sweet Potato, Sushi and Strawberry. It made the UK’s exotic “Mint” flavour looked rather bland…which it is, I hate Mint chocolate, and only ever pick it up by mistake, then after a quick taste I pull that face….. you know that face when you think “What the hell was that”
In fact, even within Japan there are regional differences in Kit Kat…the mind boggles how this humble break time snack has been reinvented and taken Japan by storm.
Reading the news online today, I see Japan will now open its first new Kit Kat factory in 26 years to cope with increasing demand, and it intends to produce unique, limited urn, selected taste sensations to cope with the the Japanese desire for unique tastes that they can collect.
Marcia Mogelonsky, global food and drink analyst at market research firm Mintel said: ‘Innovative flavours are not uncommon in Japan, but Kit-Kat stands out for its volume of Japan-centric flavours,’
She added: ‘The collectible flavours of the products, which leverage some extremely specific Japanese flavours and food ways, are one of the major reasons for its success.’
So…I now understand the Kit Kat phenomenon a bit better. No longer will I see the humble English Kit Kat as the highlight of middle England tea break, but a truly international wafer mixed with wasabi treat…or any other 300 flavours.
If I make it to Japan, the Wasabi Kit Kat will be coming back home to Norfolk.