You might know that Kit Kats are incredibly popular in Japan. But, have you ever wondered how or even why, exactly, a chocolate brand from England became so popular all the way across the waters in Japan? Actually, in Japan, Kit Kats are actually known as a symbol of good luck. More specifically, a good luck charm for exam students.
Kit Kats were initially introduced to Japan in 1973, over 50 years after they were first invented in England by British confectioner Rowntree. Present-day, Kit Kat is owned by Nestle. In 2004, Kit Kat launched its ever-so-famous green tea flavored Kit Kat in Japan, and was soon followed by a slew of seasonal, regional, and limited-time flavors. In 2014, Kit Kat actually took the top selling sales position from Japan’s reigning number one confectionary company, Meiji.
So then, how did Japan become the Kit Kat capital of the world? The chocolate brand has grown immensely popular in Japan due to Japan’s omiyage (gift-giving) culture, with the country being the brand’s biggest consumer in terms of both sales and profits. However, another main reason for it’s popularity is in its serendipitous name.
Kit Kat in Japanese is pronounced “kitto katto” which actually sounds very similar to the Japanese phrase “kitto katsu”, which translates to “you will surely win”. The word “kitto” in Japanese means “surely or absolutely”, and the word “katsu” means “bound to win”.
Due to Kit Kats closeness in sound to this popular phrase, the brand become synonymously associated with good luck. Japanese parents would often gift Kit Kats to their children before a big test or exam as a good luck charm, telling them that they will surely win and do well on their exams. Nestle has said that they often see their sales spike in January, when the Japanese college entrance exams are held. And most of the time, when students receive these Kit Kats, they aren’t to be eaten, but rather to have as an amulet for a successful exam period.
Kit Kat, as a brand, definitely took advantage of this lucky coincidence hopped on this trend themselves, with their “Lucky Charm” advertising campaign winning the Asian Brand Marketing Effectiveness Award in 2005. In 2009, Nestle launched a campaign with the Japan Post, where they sold special Kit Kat packages that had a space to affix a stamp and write a message of encouragement to their friends and families that could be mailed from 20,000 post offices across Japan. This campaign was so successful that the promotional packages were sold out in a month. This campaign also won them the Media Grand Prix in the 2010 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.
Currently, there are over 300 different Kit Kat flavors in Japan, all created by pastry chefs, with limited availability for seasonal delicacies, regional specialties and other limited time special flavors. Some popular and unique flavors include Strawberry Kit Kats, Japanese Green Tea Kit Kats, Cherry Blossom flavored Kit Kats, and even Sake flavored Kit Kats. As most of these flavors are unique to Japan and hard to find elsewhere, the Bokksu Marketplace is a great place to check out if you’re looking to get your hands on special and uniquely flavored Kit Kat bars. The Bokksu Marketplace offers a variety of Kit Kat flavors such as Hojicha Tea Otona no Amasa, Otona no Amasa Premium Mint, Yogurt Sake, Passion fruit, Green Tea, Peach Parfait, and many more. If you’re interested you should definitely try some of these flavors out yourself, or even hop on the Japanese trend, and send them to your friends and families as a good luck charm!