Kit Kat takes on Japanese tastes

Nestle has given one of the most popular and long-established chocolate bars in the world a uniquely Japanese make-over.

Kit Kat bars are now available in 19 new flavours that reflect specialities from regions across Japan, ranging from sweet potatoes from Okinawa to melons from Hokkaido, strawberries from Tochigi, green tea from Kyoto and soy sauce from Tokyo.

Launched late last year, Nestle said it hopes people will buy the lines - which are only available in Japan - as souvenirs or as gifts. The company has also teamed up with Japan Post to produce boxes that can be sent through the mail when a Y140 (€1.14) stamp is attached and one side of the box has a blank space for a message - in much the same way as people send postcards from a holiday destination.

"Giving gifts is an important part of Japanese culture and we like to travel, so we wanted to combine these two things together," Miki Kanoh, a spokeswoman for the Kobe-based company, told Relaxnews.

Other flavours include pungent wasabi - a green horseradish that is more commonly found in sushi - apple, chili, miso, cherries and strawberry cheese cake from Yokohama.

And with the school and university exam season upon Japanese students, Kit Kats have also been finding their way into school lunch boxes as a good luck charm.
Kit Kat, an expression invented in Britain in the 1930s, sounds close to "kitto katsu," a Japanese exam-season mantra that literally means "I'll do my best to make sure I succeed." Tens of thousands of students will find the snacks in their lunch boxes over the coming weeks, mostly placed there by ambitious parents anxious for their success.

Originally produced in September 1935 by Rowntree's of England as the Chocolate Crisp, Kit Kat is believed to take its name from the famous 1920s club of the same name in London. It is the best-selling chocolate biscuit in both Japan and the United States and in the top 10 in the world.

The largest confectioner in Japan is Meiji, which can trace its history back to 1916 and presently has around 26 percent of the market here, with the Melty Kiss range traditionally popular. After Lotte, which has 17 percent of the market, Nestle is the largest foreign operator while Morinaga & Co. and Osaka-based Ezaki-Glico - famous for its Pocky chocolate-coated sticks - round out the top firms.

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