Kit Kat was first introduced to the Japanese market in 1973 thanks to a deal made between Rowntree’s (a British confectioner) and a fellow Japanese confectioner and the owner of the restaurant chain named Fujiya. The introduction was pretty successful and by the year 2000, Japan was producing its own Kit Kat bars. But it would not start on its way towards becoming one of the nation’s largest confections until 2004, and the introduction of the first specialty flavor - the green tea Kit Kat!
Since 2004, the flavor varieties slowly but surely started to expand and became more and more audacious as time went by. In 2010, the most successful flavor was soy sauce Kit Kat! To be fair, wouldn’t you want to try it out of sheer interest if you saw that bar on the shelf in your local grocery store? And that’s exactly were most bars were sold in Japan as well - in grocery stores and markets that rotated their produce pretty frequently. Therefore, overproduction quickly became a problem - frequent rotations meant that a lot of the bars were going to waste, so the solution was thought out and it changed everything - Kit Kat started producing smaller batches of region-specific flavors, some of which were only available at certain times of the year!
Now, one of the most basic characteristics of human psychology is that from a very young age, we want what we can’t have. Therefore, the interest around rare and versatile Kit Kat flavors skyrocketed in the beginning of 2010s. Higher demand makes for better gifts, doesn’t it? So not only did various flavors of Kit Kat became signifiers of their respective regions, but they were also turned into one of the most popular options for omiyage! People all over Japan travelled to different regions and brought back the most intriguing flavors of these chocolate bars back to their loved ones. Kit Kat became everyones favorite gifts to receive! And higher the success soared, the more flavors were created and produced!
Brand’s massive growth was also helped with their award-winning marketing campaign Kitto Katsu - luckily, this popular phrase that sounds a lot like Kit Kat, translates into “you will surely win” and the campaign turned their chocolate bars into a way of sending encouraging messages to students before their exams and to anyone facing big life challenges in general. Unsurprisingly, it was a huge success - people all around Japan were sending bars of Kit Kat to their loved ones to wish them luck and combined with the already existing tradition of omiyage, unique flavors of Kit Kat were becoming an integral part of Japanese food culture. So it didn’t come as much of a shock, when in 2012-2014, Kit Kat overtook Meiji as Japan’s most popular confectioner. As a response to their success, Nestle started producing Kit Kat in two different facilities in Japan - in Himeji and Kasumigaura, with new recipes developed by chef Yasumara Takagi.