A. More than 350 flavors have been sold in Japan. There are two reasons why KitKat has become so big and popular in Japan resulting in many variations.
Reason #1 Kitkat is not just a chocolate, it’s a communication tool for Japanese people.
Reason #2 Japanese mentality to accept everything and Japanize it.
In this post, let’s dig into reason #1. I’ll explain about #2 in next post.
Back in 2002, Nestle Japan noticed there was a obvious hike in sales of KitKat in February/March, exam season in Japan, specifically in Kyushu area. They looked into it and found out students in the area were buying KitKat as a lucky item. When you say “KitKat” in Japanese way, it’s “Kitto katto” which almost sounds like “Kitto katsuto” in Kyushu dialect, meaning “(you) will win (or pass the exam).” Students bought KitKat for themselves and also as a small gift for their friends to wish them luck. Nestle then did a nation wide campaign to promote KitKat as a lucky item for students and it worked well. It was popular snack before the campaign already but it accelerated its popularity and KitKat finally established permanent position as a lucky item. The packaging of KitKat in Japan has a blank space on the back where you can write message. It has become a tradition for students to write down message like “Good luck !” or “You can do it !” and trade with friends before exam. Research shows 20% of students brought KitKat to the exam venue and 50% gave/received KitKat. This trend gradually spread to other generations by loosening the original role as a lucky item and people started to use it as a very casual gift to deliver messages. When there is someone feeling down, someone leave a KitKat on the desk with message saying “Cheer up 😊!” for example. I personally think KitKat with messages perfectly fits to the character of Japanese people. People here are not very good at telling their feelings straight forward and just leaving message rather than saying it directly is easier and more comfortable. So this is why and how KitKat became a communication tool in Japan and as a result, so popular. Reason #2 in next post !