Exam and Trial, two words that strike equal measures of fear and determination in any school student! With the encouraging Japanese phrase キットカット (kitto katto), meaning “sure to win”, friends and family can rally around those about to embark on examinations, a life changing event in Japan, by gifting the student a “Kit Kat” chocolate bar. So it seemed almost poetic when the famous crispy treat landed in Japan, but did you know that the “Kit Kat” wasn’t only invented in my native Yorkshire, England, it was unknowingly inspired by that very phrase, native to Japan?!
The city of York is steeped in history. Founded by the Romans, to be then conquered by the Vikings, York has always been a staple destination for school trips. But it was one particular attraction of York that guaranteed unbridled excitement from school students of Yorkshire, and that was the Rowntree Chocolate Factory, birthplace of the “Kit Kat”.
The name “Kit Kat” was first trademarked by Rowntree’s way back in 1911, but it wasn’t until the 1930’s, that the now familiar chocolate bar first burst onto the scene. During a period of creative stagnation, the Yorkshire confectioners were wracking their brains for a product that would revolutionize the chocolate business. At a loss, Rowntree looked to its own workforce for inspiration, and in the sprit of キットカット, an idea was born.
The original Rowntree factory, York.
A member of the Rowntree factory workforce scribbled his idea on a scrap of paper and placed it in the suggestion box. It wasn’t a recipe, or even a suggestion of flavors, but a plea. Like all Yorkshireman, he was a hard worker, and during those inter-war years, work was hard. So hard in fact, that the work day was awaited with dread. What the workers of Britain needed, he said, was an incentive, an encouraging symbol where they’ll “surely win” the day’s work, in the form of a “tasty snack that could easily fit into a lunchbox”.
Another work day finished.
Inspired by this plea, Rowntree had their revolution. Beginning life as “Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp”, priced at 2d (that’s around 2 pence in UK currency today), the treats were first sold in London, though it wasn’t long before the rest of Britain were clamoring for this revolutionary chocolate bar. Rowntree adopted the name “Kit Kat” in 1937, just two years before war engulfed the world.
As German bombs fell over the United Kingdom during WW2, the British spirit remained as unbroken as an uneaten “Kit Kat”. Rationing was soon implemented, with cheese, eggs, butter and more importantly, milk, curtailed for the war effort. Undaunted by the rationing of “Kit Kat’s” key ingredient, Rowntree switched the chocolate covering from “milk chocolate”, to “dark chocolate” in an effort keep the chocolate bar in production, thereby encouraging Britain’s soldiers to “WIN” with a strong supply of treats. The “Kit Kat” was no longer a way of encouraging workers, now it was a symbol of patriotic duty!
Kit Kat, doing its bit for the war effort.
Post-war, the “Kit Kat” was ready to help heal a broken world. While being exported to every corner of the globe, the Fujiya Confectionary Company of Japan became aware of this strangely named chocolate bar. Keen to capitalize on the sprint of キットカット, Fujiya entered into an agreement with Rowntree to manufacture and sell the “Kit Kat” in Japan. With that, Japan’s love affair with this innocuous Yorkshire treat began.
With a plethora of exclusive flavors on offer, including Green Tea; Strawberry Cheesecake; Apple Vinegar; Sweet Potato; Wasabi; Sakura; Choco Banana; Lemon; Sweet Corn and Grape, it’s safe to say that Japan takes the “Kit Kat” as seriously as the examinations they are gifted to encourage.
The most unlikely of flavors!
Thanks to it’s association with the phrase キットカット (kitto katto), the “Kit Kat” in Japan is more than just a tasty treat, it’s a symbol of “good luck” for the trials of life. So it seems almost prophetic, that all those years ago in Yorkshire, a downtrodden worker dreamed up a concept that would embody this very “Japanese” phrase, a phrase that is as universal as our collective love of chocolate.
Kit Kat Sushi?!
From sitting an exam to getting through the work day, remember that those around you will always encourage you to “do you best” so that you’re “SURE TO WIN!”
And, now that your creative tastebuds have been well and truly tickled, Penmaru is eagerly waiting behind after class to see YOUR winning entries! Click on the image below for details on how to take the TEST of a LIFETIME!
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