During the company’s full-year results conference call, Nestlé chief financial officer (CFO) Wan Ling Martello said: “Kit Kat became the number one chocolate brand in Japan in 2012”.
Kit Kat Black launch
Miki Kanoh, media relations for Nestlé Japan told this site that the company’s source was Japanese official retailer panel data, which includes supermarkets, convenience stores and drug stores.
The data corresponds with figures from Euromonitor International.*
Kanoh said that Nestlé’s two main product lines, Kit Kat original and Kit Kat Black, had helped the brand to grow.
“Since Kit Kat Black was launched in September, it has been well received as a Kit Kat suitable for women aged from 20 to 39 who like sweetness that is just right for adults and a light texture.”
She said the light chocolate snack category was growing in Japan and Kit Kat Black was profiting.
Local tastes: green tea and wasabi
Nestlé has launched a variety of Kit Kat flavors that cater to local tastes in recent years such as green tea, wasabi, cantaloupe and soup flavors.
Market Expansion Services group DKSH previously told this site that each country in Asia has a unique culture with different food preferences and manufacturers must tailor products for specific markets rather than attempting an all-encompassing Asia strategy.
Nestle spokesperson Kanoh added that her company’s emotion marketing campaigns for KitKat had also contributed to the brand’s growth.
‘Kitto Katsuto’ is a phrase in Kyushu dialect meaning “I am sure you will win [pass]”. Kanoh said the phrase sounded similar to the name Kit Kat.
“Thus, it began to be natural among students, mainly in Kyushu, to give each other a Kit Kat as a form of support around 2002. This practice then spread throughout Japan by word of mouth. Today, Kit Kats are brought by students into the exam hall, or given by people who support students (teachers, family, friends),” she said.
Domestic competition: Meiji
In spite of its launch of cheese chocolate, Japanese firm Meiji reported in November year-on-year chocolate sales declines provoked by a heat wave in Japan last summer.
However, Meiji is still the leading chocolate company in Japan with a 17.9% market share. Nestlé trails on 7.3% behind Korean firm Lotte and Japanese confectioner Morinaga.
The Japanese chocolate market is much more mature than surrounding countries in Asia. While markets such as China and Indonesia have recorded rapid growth in the past five years, the Japanese chocolate market has remained relatively flat on JPY 346.8 ($3.7bn), according to Euromonitor.
CORRECTION - This article previously stated that Euromonitor data showed Nestlé was the #2 chocolate brand in Japan behind Meiji. This was inaccurate as data for Meiji represented multiple Meiji brands.