What’s Up with KitKat in Japan?


Japan is a KitKat-lover’s paradise, with so many unique varieties—an estimated 300—that some travelers visit Japan just to try them. (Los Angeles Times)

How is KitKat a case study in globalization?

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

These are only a few of Japan’s dizzying array of KitKat flavors: Blueberry Cheese Cake, Strawberry, Green Tea, Cherry Blossom, Wasabi, Rum Raisin, Brown Sugar Syrup, Strawberry Cheese Cake.
Photograph by Jordi Sanchez Teruel, courtesy Flickr. CC BY-SA 2.0

Discussion Ideas


  • So, we know KitKats were established in the U.K. in the 1930s. What is the origin of KitKat in Japan?
    • KitKat came to Japan in 1973. It was originally marketed as an alternative to rice cakes, the regular snack in tourist shops in Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost major island. Find Hokkaido on our 1-page map of Japan.


  • How did Nestle Japan make a British teatime snack so uniquely Japanese?
    • local flavors. Marketers quickly capitalized on how well the candy’s milk chocolate covering incorporated other flavors. Some flavors include:
      • strawberry (the original, Hokkaido-associated version)
      • wasabi
      • cough drop
      • red bean
      • blueberry cheesecake
      • citrus
      • green tea
      • apple
      • banana
      • “European cheese”
      • cafe au lait
      • corn
      • edamame
      • soy sauce
      • ginger ale
      • maple syrup
      • vegetable juice
      • miso soup
      • grape
      • sake
      • gold-foil “Kobe pudding”
    • packaging. Marketers altered KitKat’s traditional dark-red packaging with an array of bold, bright colors—a marketing scheme familiar to Japanese consumers. (Even art depicting excrement is adorably pastel.)
    • innovation. Japanese business culture has a global reputation for innovation. Today, KitKat Japan introduces 20 new flavors every year.


  • Read through our reference resource on globalization. How is KitKat’s presence in Japan an example of sweet globalization?
    • communication. Japan is an industry leader in communications technology, and Japanese citizens are among the most technologically savvy in the world. News about new or limited-edition flavors can spread quickly and “go viral”, creating a curious market.
    • travel. Many flavors are associated with specific regions of Japan. The popular flavor momiji manju (a pastry made of rice and buckwheat), for instance, is considered “soul food” in the city of Hiroshima.
    • pop culture. Japan’s production of wildly flavored KitKats has become part of the country’s identity. It’s an accessible symbol of Japan’s internationally recognized popular culture.
    • economy. Nestle Japan is a thriving business, an important part of the Nestle family of food and beverage brands. In addition, the flavored KitKat bars are popular among domestic and international tourists—the original market for the Hokkaido KitKats all those years ago.




Los Angeles Times: How the humble KitKat conquered Japan with ever-changing flavors. Anyone for sushi KitKat?

Nat Geo: What is globalization?

Wikipedia: Kit Kats in Japan: Varieties

2 thoughts on “What’s Up with KitKat in Japan?

  1. Inquiry: How has the true story of the production of chocolate been hidden from consumers?
    How might knowing the true story of chocolate impact sales?

    These inquiry questions could be add to get a more complete analysis.

Leave a Reply