Nestle’s KitKat bar has been on the market for more than 80 years and is famous all over the world.
It was created in York in what was then Rowntree’s factory in 1935 by the company’s marketing manager George Harris. He was inspired to create a new type of chocolate product when a factory worker left a note in the company suggestion box: why not make something to eat in a “pack up”.
Harris set to work, making a simple treat that appealed to everybody, was snack-sized and easily affordable, and the rest is history.
York’s Chocolate Story has launched a new exhibition exploring the history of KitKat, which uncovers the secrets behind one of the world’s most popular confectionery brands.
For our latest ConfectioneryNews podcast we spoke to exhibition coordinator Bernie Fleck. “There’s never been a product quite like KitKat; everybody knows what it is!” he said.
“This exhibition offers a unique insight into the history of York’s most iconic export. We all have a memory associated with KitKat; from the snack in your packed lunch, to the rare and wonderful treat you picked up in Japan. Its story is a fascinating one, involving ground-breaking marketing, revolutionary manufacturing and 17th Century mutton pies!”
Fleck said that “a staggering four million KitKat bars are produced every day in the York”. Guests can explore the bar’s history, origins and impact in the new exhibition.
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In 2010, KitKat was certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s most global brand and in 2014 was named Time Magazine’s most influential confectionery bar of all time.
KitKat is actually named after a pie
In 17th Century London, baker Christopher Catling became famous for his mutton pies. The pies were affectionately named Kit Cats, after an abbreviated form of the baker’s name. These pies became popular with a group of political and literary elite who would gather in Catling’s pie shop. In time, this group became known as Kit Kat club. It is from this club that first an assortment box of chocolates made by Rowntree’s was named and later the chocolate bar itself.
The Blue Kit Kat
Due to rationing and food shortages throughout WW2, the KitKat recipe was altered in order to avoid impact on customer loyalty they became blue.
KitKat bars are very popular in Japan
The Japanese phrase ‘Kitto Kattsu’ roughly translates as ‘you will surely win’ / ‘good luck’. By chance, the phrase sounds remarkably similar to ‘KitKat’. This good fortune lends itself to the popularity of the bars where they are given as tokens of good luck. There is even a box on the back of the bar in which you can write a message, wishing the recipient success.
Nestlé Japan produce over 40 flavours of KitKat including Wasabi, Green Tea, Baked Potato, Chocobanana, Blueberry Cheesecake, Cinnamon Cookie and Hokkaido Melon with Mascarpone Cheese amongst others.
Breaking the Mould: The Story of KitKat runs until 2020 at York’s Chocolate Story