The Bizarre, Innovative World of Japanese Kit Kats
In the U.S., a Kit Kat is usually just a Kit Kat.
But in Japan, where the product comes in 350 flavors, more than 30 of which are on the market at once, the classic candy bar is a trendsetter.
The chocolate-covered wafer confection debuted in Japan in 1973, and it enjoys some natural advantages in the country, where Kit Kat fortuitously translates to “You will surely win.”
The candy quickly gained status as a good luck charm for school exams, and then for occasions broadly. Nestlé, which owns the brand abroad (Hershey owns it in the U.S.), leaned into Kit Kat’s burgeoning popularity, fueled by Japan’s prominent gift-giving culture, and introduced more flavors, like Mini Rum Raisin (with local Tokyo ingredients), and Purple Sweet Potato (an Okinawa specialty).
It’s not the only U.S. treat to adapt overseas. (China has green-tea ice cream Oreos, and Hershey bars are sweeter in Canada, less sweet in China, and slightly smoky in Brazil.) But it may be the most innovative. Like fast fashion for snacks, Nestlé can bring some new Kit Kats to the Japanese market in weeks. The result: They’re a hot item not just in Japan, but thanks to rising tourism and e-commerce, all around the world.