I have been aware of the weird and wonderful flavours of KitKat in Japan for a while, having been presented with, amongst others, Matcha Green Tea and Strawberry flavours over the course of my teaching at Mazak when my students have returned from business trips back home.
I decided to research further after this display at the airport caught my eye:
It seems that the word KitKat in Japanese, or Kitto Kattsu (きっと勝つ?), means ‘You will surely win’. This phrase is often said to university students and soon people started giving KitKats to students to wish them luck in their exams. Nestlé picked up on this once they realised the fortuitous coincidence. Despite the original slogan “Have a break, have a KitKat” still being used above, it doesn’t mean that much to the Japanese themselves so Nestlé capitalised on the ‘You will surely win’ slogan. A few years ago they even ran a very successful marketing campaign with Japan Post to make a postable KitKat which friends and family sent to students to wish them luck.
Then there was a range of KitKat innovations- from a KitKat that was also a train ticket launched in 2014 for a railway company in northeastern Japan to raise money after the tsunami, earthquake and nuclear disaster to an online shop where you can order personalised KitKats with photographs and messages for weddings.
Furthermore, KitKats are seen as a luxury brand in Japan:
Japan’s gift-giving tradition and, in particular, the wonderful culinary tradition of celebrating both seasonal and regional products — have inspired a chef called Tagaki. He is employed by Nestlé to invent new flavours. I loved this quote in particular- ‘The challenge is how to make something handmade out of an industrial brand.’ And he certainly has in Japan.
You can buy KitKats in a myriad of places throughout Japan from the ubiquitous convenience stores and vending machines to the premium Chocolatory concessions in the high-end department stores in Tokyo.
My favourite flavour? All that’s left of the multi-pack I brought back…Cranberry and Almond flavour.
The writing on the front of the packet says: ‘Everyday Luxury.’ So I took advantage.
I drew the line at wasabi.