Thursday, March 03, 2005

The Cult of Kit Kat

Chocolate is nowhere near as popular in Japan as it is in Britain. Actually, I never realised just how much chocolate we eat in Britain until I came over here. On my recent visit to the Ishiya chocolate factory in Sapporo, I found out that Britons eat 8.4 kg of chocolate every year, on average, whilst Japanese people only eat about 1.8 kg. (While we're on the subject, Americans eat about 5.5 kg of chocolate a year, whilst the top chocolate guzzlers are the Swiss, who eat over 10 kg of the stuff every year. Nice bit of pub trivia for you there.)

Back home I'm used to seeing corner shops stacked high with shelves upon shelves of chocolate bars, but in Japan people tend to go for different types of confectionary. Pocky is really popular here (it's a kind of biscuit stick with various kinds of toppings), along with various other strange and wonderful snacks. However, there's one chocolate bar which you see everywhere, and that's the Kit Kat. You occasionally see Aero and Snickers bars, but Kit Kats seem to be everywhere.

And the reason for this dominance of the chocolate market? Simple. It's the name.

Japanese students have cottoned onto the fact that "Kit Kat" sounds like the Japanese phrase "kitto katsu", which roughly translates as "you're sure to win". All across the country, students have been giving Kit Kats to their friends along with wishes of "kitto katsu", just before they take their exams. Which is good news for Nestle.

They've been cashing in on the phenomenon by issuing some pretty random Kit Kat special editions. In addition to the regular Kit Kat you can get...

...White Chocolate Kit Kats... Posted by Hello

...Strawberry Kit Kats... Posted by Hello

...Melon Kit Kats... Posted by Hello

...Passion Fruit Kit Kats... Posted by Hello

...and even posh Kit Kats with flaky chocolate. Posted by Hello

In addition to this, there's Green Tea Kit Kats, Apple Kit Kats, and even Cheesecake Kit Kats.

Pretty much all of them taste disgusting.

You can check out the BBC News story about the Kit Kat phenomenon here.


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