Kit Kats are a quintessentially British chocolate snack, originally launched in London and South East England by Rowntree’s back in 1935. They quickly spread around the world and are now a popular sweet in many countries. The iconic “Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat” advertising slogan appeared in 1958, cementing the brand’s identity.
Although they were initially made in Britain, production and distribution was expanded (into Germany) to meet demand. Rowntree’s also signed agreements with Hershey and Fuijya to market and distribute their products in the USA and Japan respectively. In 1988 Rowntree’s was purchased by Nestlé, who then had global control over the Kit Kat brand everywhere except North America, which Hershey retained. Nestlé created new facilities in Japan, Malaysia, India and China. In 2000, Nestlé also acquired Fujiya’s share of the brand.
Variations in Kat Kat flavours didn’t appear until 1996 when Kit Kat Orange was launched in the UK. In the years since, flavours such as double chocolate, white chocolate, caramel, mint and peanut butter were also released. These flavours have been resolutely mainstream, chosen to appeal to the widest possible demographic and frankly, they add little to the wider confectionery scene.
But in Japan, the world of Kit Kats is completely different. Indeed, Nestle has released over 200 flavours since 2000 including ginger ale, soy sauce, green tea, banana, and strawberry cheesecake. These are often created as short term limited editions, which presumably gives more scope for the unusual and the outrageous. The other side of the coin is an audience far more receptive to the new and different than us Brits.
Because it sounds so much like the Japanese good luck phrase, kitto katsu, which means “surely win”, Kit Kats have become a popular gift for any occasion that calls for wishing the recipient well. Of course, the constant innovation in new flavours (not to mention packaging designs) also keeps interest keen.
Although we ate as many traditional local specialities as we could during our trip to Japan last year, I was determined to find as many Japanese Kit Kat variations as possible.
We tasted them all in one sitting – here’s our feedback on the 9 flavours I brought home:
“Quite a good strawberry flavour”, says Pete, but slightly artificial. To me it tastes like cheap strawberry flavoured milkshakes from our childhood, though that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Although this smells incredibly sweet, on the palate it actually has an unexpectedly pleasant balance of sharp and sweet. Pete too likes that “bit of acid to it”. This works.
To me this Kit Kat reeks of blue cheese; to Pete it’s Parmesan he picks up on the nose. I find it has an unpleasant milky flavour (and I mean the dairy product here not milk or white chocolate) as well as an odd hint of coconut. Pete (who has an even sweeter tooth than I do) comments on the extreme sweetness and the coconut and says that whilst he also detects a “faint hint of artificial fruit”, he “can’t tell what it is”. Not a resounding success with either of us, this one.
Wow! It smells right! And it tastes right too. There’s even a hint of alcohol to the taste, though I can’t read the box to confirm whether or not it actually contains any. Pete really likes it too, but comments that he “wouldn’t like to have to take a breathalyser test after eating one!”
Oh, this is like a cup of strongly brewed black tea with milk and a rich tea biscuit. It’s fabulous and I absolutely love it! Pete too says it smells and tastes just like cup of tea. He’s not quite as keen as I am but definitely approves.
Pete gets a hint of wasabi on the nose, but I can’t pick it up at all and wonder whether the taste will be equally faint. So I’m pleasantly surprised to find it has a strong and distinct wasabi flavour but no wasabi heat. Pete declares that it’s “disturbing, very disturbing” in the way that it captures the essence of wasabi but puts it into chocolate.
Described as Uji-Matcha, after a well-known tea-producing town in Kansai this is one of the more mainstream Kit Kat flavours available in Japan. Matcha (powdered green tea) is used to flavour all manner of sweet and savoury dishes from noodles to ice cream, from cakes to salt mixes for tempura. Given that he’s not at all keen on matcha as a drink or an ingredient, Pete’s understandably not so enamoured of this Kit Kat as I am. For me, it’s a straightforward and fairly successful flavouring though the distinctive bitterness of matcha is a little too tempered by the milk and sugar for my tastes.
In this Kit Kat, sakura (cherry blossom) is combined with matcha to create a uniquely Japanese treat. I find the matcha is somewhat overwhelmed by the flowers which give a rather strong perfume-like flavour which is very sweet and cloying. Neither of us would seek this out again.
This is the only box which had no English writing at all, so I turn to twitter to ask if anyone could read Japanese. My friend Richard responds with a range of possibilities, eventually concluding that the name roughly translates as “adult sweetness”. We are at a loss to work out whether it means sophisticated and grown up or an altogether ruder interpretation!
In any case, we don’t like it at all. Pete thinks it “smells familiar” but “unpleasant” and tastes “peculiar”. My exact words are that it has “an absolutely horrid smell” and I find it incredibly sickly. If forced to guess I’d say it was based on cookies and cream, but don’t hold me to it.
Our top three, in no particular order, were Rum Raisin, Hojicha Roasted Tea and Wasabi with a runner up high five to Uji-Matcha.
Have you tasted any of the Japanese Kit Kat flavours? If so which ones and what did you think of them? Any you particularly loved or hated?
We’re going back to Japan later this year, so will look out for some different ones during our trip.
I have one set of all 9 flavours above to give away to a Kavey Eats reader. The prize includes 9 individually wrapped mini Kit Kats, which I’ll put into a (non-branded) box for posting. I am happy to deliver anywhere in the UK.
(Note: Japanese mini kit kats are half the size of the usual two fingered ones we get here in the UK.)
HOW TO ENTER
You can enter the competition in 3 ways:
Entry 1 – Blog Comment
Leave a comment below, telling me what new flavour you think would be great in a Kit Kat. It can be savoury or sweet.
Entry 2 – Facebook
Like the Kavey Eats Facebook and leave a (separate) comment on this blog post with your Facebook user name.
Entry 3 – Twitter
Follow @Kavey on Twitter. Existing followers are, of course, welcome to enter!
Then tweet the (exact) sentence below.
I’d love to win a set of 9 mini Japanese Kit Kats from Kavey Eats! http://goo.gl/LrBDk #KaveyEatsKitKats
(Please do not add my twitter handle into the tweet; I track entries using the hashtag. And don’t leave a blog comment about your tweet either, thanks!”)
RULES & DETAILS
The deadline for entries is midnight GMT Friday 17th May 2013.
The winners will be selected from all valid entries using a random number generator.
Entry instructions form part of the terms and conditions.
The prize is a hand-assembled set of 9 mini Kit Kats in the flavours listed above and includes free delivery anywhere in the UK.
The prize cannot be redeemed for a cash value.
The prize is offered and provided directly by Kavey Eats.
One blog entry per person only. One Twitter entry per person only. One Facebook entry per person only. You do not have to enter all three ways for your entries to be valid.
For Twitter entries, winners must be following @Kavey at the time of notification. For Facebook entries, winners must Like the Kavey Eats Facebook page at time of notification.
Blog comment entries must provide a valid email address for contacting the winner.
The winners will be notified by email, Twitter or Facebook. If no response is received within 7 days of notification, the prize will be forfeit and a new winner will be picked and contacted.
This competition is closed. The winner is Doreen (blog comment entry).