Kit Kat’s coolest flavors aren’t sold in the US. Here’s why | CNN Business (2024)

Kit Kat’s coolest flavors aren’t sold in the US. Here’s why | CNN Business (1)

A variety of Nestlé Japan's Kit Kat flavors.

New York CNN

If you stroll through the real or virtual aisles of a Japanese store, you might find Kit Kats in flavors like salt lemon, caramel pudding, whole grain biscuit, melon, and milk tea. Good luck finding those at Target or Walmart in the US.

Kit Kat aficionados know that to find the most interesting varieties, you have to shop outside of the US or go to specialty stores that carry imported goods. Why? Because Kit Kat is distributed by different companies in the United States and internationally. In the US, Kit Kat is sold by Hershey. In the rest of the world, Nestlé’s in charge.

That means different flavors across the globe, and different recipes — even two versions of a dark chocolate Kit Kat, Hershey’s and Nestlé’s, don’t taste the same.

Both companies sell more traditional Kit Kats than the seasonal or limited-time flavors. But those unusual flavors are a powerful marketing tool. They create buzz and urgency, which help decades-old brands like Kit Kat stay relevant.

Nestlé has embraced partnerships and, in Japan, a large number of seasonal and regional flavors.

Hershey tends to be more conservative with new flavor launches, following the tastes of just one market, the US. And with Nestlé churning out so many new flavors, Hershey doesn’t need to do as much, noted Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight for Mintel Consulting.

Hershey is “letting Nestlé do the heavy lifting when it comes to the really unusual flavors,” Dornblaser said, which means Nestlé is essentially marketing for Hershey. “It’s a really fascinating dynamic.”

As long as Nestlé is offering new flavors across the globe, Hershey can stick mostly to its tried and true favorites at home.

How Kit Kat broke in two

Kit Kat wasn’t always controlled by two separate companies. At first, Kit Kat had nothing to do with either Hershey or Nestlé.

The treat was created by the UK candy company Rowntree’s, which debuted the chocolate as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp in 1935. A few years later, Rowntree’s renamed the product Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp.

After manufacturing and distributing Kit Kat for decades, the British company entered into a deal with Hershey, giving it control over US Kit Kat distribution in 1970. Hershey started making Kit Kats in its own plant in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 1973.

Then, in 1988, Nestlé acquired Rowntree Mackintosh, as Rowntree’s was called after a merger, and with it Kit Kat’s global distribution. Hershey maintains the US license.

Today, the chocolate remains a powerful brand, particularly for Nestlé.

Chestnut, sweet potato and Milo

Kit Kat is the biggest brand in Nestlé’s global confectionary business, according to Chris O’Donnell, who leads Kit Kat for Nestlé globally. “It’s [a] key priority for us,” he said. “We see huge growth potential [for] Kit Kat.” Hershey’s top brand, on the other hand, is Reese’s.

Nestlé has 13 Kit Kat manufacturing sites across the world, O’Donnell said, and uses different recipes for different areas. When Kit Kat develops new flavors, most of them limited-time offers, it’s looking to appeal to local tastes.

To do that, it’s leaned on partnerships with regional favorites, among other tactics. In Australia, Kit Kat collaborated with Milo, a chocolate-flavored malted powder and drink also made by Nestlé. In the UK, Kit Kat teamed up with Lotus Biscoff cookies.

Kit Kat’s coolest flavors aren’t sold in the US. Here’s why | CNN Business (4)

A Japanese worker checks strawberry flavor Kit Kat bars in 2017.

In Japan, seasonal flavors have been especially successful.

Globally, most consumers are interested in “crowd-pleasing flavors,” like caramel, O’Donnell said. But in Japan, they “have a very wide appreciation for a much broader flavor profile.”

In 2000, Nestlé launched a strawberry Kit Kat in the country. It was a hit, and since then, the Japanese team has regularly developed seasonal flavors — like chestnut and sweet potato — in addition to regional flavors, like wasabi and roasted tea, only available in certain areas. These offerings are often bought as travel gifts or souvenirs, creating a market unto itself. Over the past few decades, Kit Kat Japan has launched hundreds of flavors.

Raspberry creme and ‘breaking bones’

In the United States, Hershey has a three-pronged approach, which includes so-called “everyday” flavors, seasonal offerings and limited-time launches.

Everyday flavors include milk chocolate, dark chocolate and white creme, plus some others, that consumers can buy year-round.

Then there are seasonal offerings, like raspberry creme and “breaking bones,” for Halloween. And finally, there are limited time offerings, which come out periodically. So far this year, Kit Kat has launched a churro flavor. Last year it announced a blueberry muffin flavor. The year before that it debuted key lime pie and fruity cereal.

Kit Kat’s coolest flavors aren’t sold in the US. Here’s why | CNN Business (5)

The limited-edition Kit Kat Churro

New flavors are based on “what’s trending and which flavors will ignite the most enthusiasm,” said Justin Kukura, director of chocolate product development at Hershey.

But they’re no wasabi.

“American consumers love the familiar,” said Marcia Mogelonsky, senior director of insight for Mintel Food and Drink. Nostalgic candies, like traditional Kit Kat bars, exert a powerful hold over those who loved them in their childhood, she noted.

When people reach for a Kit Kat, they’re reaching for a reliable jolt of sweetness and good feelings, she said. “It’s fun to be challenged every once in a while. But the main thing you want is comfort.”

Kit Kat’s coolest flavors aren’t sold in the US. Here’s why | CNN Business (2024)


Kit Kat’s coolest flavors aren’t sold in the US. Here’s why | CNN Business? ›

Why? Because Kit Kat

Kit Kat
Kit Kat is a chocolate bar made from wafers created by Rowntree's of York, United Kingdom, and is now is made globally by Nestlé. The standard bars consist of two or four pieces composed of three layers of wafer, separated and covered by an outer layer of chocolate. › wiki › Kit_Kat
is distributed by different companies in the United States and internationally. In the US, Kit Kat is sold by Hershey
The Hershey Company, often called just Hershey or Hershey's, is an American multinational confectionery company headquartered in Hershey, Pennsylvania, United States, which is also home to Hersheypark and Hershey's Chocolate World. › wiki › The_Hershey_Company
. In the rest of the world, Nestlé's in charge.

Which country has the most Kit Kat Flavours? ›

There have been more than 300 limited-edition seasonal and regional flavors of Kit Kat chocolate bars produced in Japan since 2000, many exclusive to the country.

Why does Kit Kat taste different around the world? ›

Why is the European KitKat tastier than the American KitKat? American Kit-Kats are made by the Hershey Company, while British Kit-Kats are made by Nestlé. The American-made chocolate bar contains more sugar, while the British-made chocolate bar is higher in fat and cocoa, resulting in a richer, smoother flavor.

What country has over 200 flavors of KitKats? ›

Japan has over 200 flavors of Kit Kats.

What country loves KitKats? ›

Perhaps the most distinctive feature of Kit-Kats in Japan is their extreme variety of flavors. While we typically only see the standard milk chocolate flavor in the United States, Japanese customers have seen over 400 unique flavors of Kit-Kats over the past 20 years!

What flavor is the black Kit Kat? ›

Dark Chocolate. A smooth combination of sugar and pure cacao. Not too bitter and not too sweet, this Kit Kat is for chocolate lovers!

What flavor is the pink Kit Kat? ›

— The Kit Kat brand is giving fans another reason to celebrate summer with a new, limited-edition flavor: the Kit Kat Pink Lemonade Flavored Bar. Classic, crisp wafers wrapped in a pink lemonade flavored creme: this new flavor delivers a refreshing taste experience with unexpected hints of strawberry.

Is there pink Kit Kat? ›

KIT KAT® brand's newest addition, KIT KAT® Pink Lemonade Flavored Bar, available this summer for a limited time in standard and king size packages. With the rollout of the Pink Lemonade flavor, the KIT KAT® brand is shaking up the candy aisle by adding flavors that KIT KAT® fans want.

Does Hershey own KitKat? ›

In the US, Kit Kat is sold by Hershey. In the rest of the world, Nestlé's in charge. That means different flavors across the globe, and different recipes — even two versions of a dark chocolate Kit Kat, Hershey's and Nestlé's, don't taste the same.

What did Twix used to be called? ›

The name is a portmanteau of "twin sticks". Twix was called Raider in mainland Europe for many years before its name was changed in 1991 (2000 in Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Turkey) to match the international brand name.

What are Kit Kats called in England? ›

The KIT KAT® candy bar dates back to 1935 when the wafer crisp chocolate bar was launched in England. Originally, it was known as “Rowntree's Chocolate Crisp,” but in 1937 the candy bar was renamed as "KIT KAT® Chocolate Crisp".

What does Kit Kat stand for? ›

Other Kit Kat fans speculate that the name is an acronym for “Keep In Touch, Kappa Alpha Theta.” The wife of Kit Kat inventor Joseph Rowntree was a member of the Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, according to Mental Floss.

Who is Kit Kat owned by? ›

In the 1980s, Nestlé, a Swiss multinational food and beverage company, acquired Rowntree's, the original producer of KitKat. Since then, Nestlé has taken over manufacturing and distribution of this popular snack, leading to its widespread global availability.

Why is Kit Kat so expensive? ›

The increased and unpredictable costs for key ingredients is part of the picture behind the increased price of KitKats and other chocolate products. There are plenty of other factors to take into account as well, such as energy costs relating to the manufacturing process.

How many Kit Kat flavors are there in the world? ›

But, did you know that there are over 300 different Kit Kat flavors, ranging from milk chocolate to rum raisin? Kit Kats are insanely popular in Japan.

How many Kit Kat flavours are there in India? ›

Shop for Nestlé Kit Kat Assorted 24 Types from Ubuy India. Get the authentic KitKat Japan Import with 1 each of 24 different flavors.

Do kit kats taste different in Japan? ›

Nestlé Japanese Kit Kat Original Chocolate 13 Bars. While similar to the original found in other countries, the Japanese version caters to local tastes with a less sweet profile.

How many Kit Kats does Japan have? ›

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.

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