Happy 75th birthday Kit Kat

Oct 10, 2010
Kit Kat 75th birthday KIT KAT:Sold in 72 countries worldwide Kit Kat celebrates 75 years.

Three quarters of a century on from launch, Nestlé Kit Kat continues to be a recipe for success.

With around 540 Kit Kat fingers consumed every second worldwide and 17.6 billion fingers sold every year as noted by the Guinness Book of Records in March 2010, today Kit Kat proudly celebrates its 75th birthday.

The Kit Kat name originates from the late 17th century in London, where a literary club met at a pie shop owned by pastry chef Christopher Catling. The group was called the Kit Kat club and took its name from an abbreviated version of the owner’s name.

In 1911, Rowntree’s, based in York in the United Kingdom, registered the brand names Kit Cat and Kit Kat, but did not immediately use these.

In 1935 in London and the South East of the United Kingdom, the first four-fingered wafer was launched as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp.  Within 18 months however, it was rebranded by Rowntree’s marketing director George Harris, as Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp.  Here, an iconic brand was born.

Kit Kat Chunky

This marked the start of a revolution in confectionery.  The snap of the chocolate coated wafer fingers became a household ritual in its home market of the UK, and then quickly all over the world as the brand was successfully launched in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada.

In 1988, the acquisition of Rowntree meant that Kit Kat came under the Nestlé umbrella, catalysing an expansion of the brand into Central & Eastern Europe, emerging Asian markets and Latin America.

A year after the acquisition, Kit Kat production extended to a new Nestlé facility in Kasumigaura in Japan.  In the following decade Nestlé also set up operations in Malaysia, India and China.

For its first 64 years Kit Kat was only available in two-finger and four-finger formats.  But following the successful launch of Kit Kat Chunky in 1999, which took the brand into the hunger-satisfying segment of confectionery, there have been a further series of brand innovations, the most recent being the successful launch of a more indulgent Kit Kat Senses in 2008.

Marcelo Melchior

Marcelo Melchior, left, Head of the Confectionery Strategic Business Unit (SBU) at Nestlé, said:  “Today, we sell Kit Kat directly in 72 countries.  Consumers will not find exactly the same recipe in each country, but Kit Kat has the same fundamentals; the perfect balance of chocolate and wafer with a recipe tailored to the consumers’ needs.  This is then combined with consistent branding and great communication to the customer with our famous ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat.’ advertising line. These are the ingredients for its on-going success.”

Timeline: Kit Kat is born

Download Kit Kat 75 years full circle(pdf, 824 Kb)

Late 17th century: A literary and political club met at a pie shop in central London, owned by Christopher Catling.  The group was called the Kit Kat club, which took its name from an abbreviated version of the owner.

1911: Rowntree, a major confectionery business based in York in the UK registers the names Kit Cat and Kit Kat.

1920s: Rowntree launched a brand of boxed chocolates named Kit Cat.

1930s: Rowntree concentrated on strong assortment brands, Black Magic and Dairy Box.  Kit Cat was eventually phased out.

August 29th 1935: First manufacture of the four-finger wafer in York. This is then sold in London and the South East of England as Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp.

1937: George Harris, Marketing Director for Rowntree, re-branded the product as Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp. This year also heralds the first use of the word ‘Break’ in Kit Kat advertising.

1942: During the Second World War due to a shortage of ingredients including milk, Rowntree altered the recipe of Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp. The wrapper was changed to blue and the oval logo was removed along with the Chocolate Crisp. Kit Kat was written in bold.

1949: Kit Kat returned to its original milk recipe and the glory of its red wrapper.

1950s: International expansion in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada

1958: Donald Gilles, executive at advertising agency JWT London, creates the classic advertising line: ‘Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat

1960s: Two-finger multi-pack was born. This new packaging format drives sales in the new supermarkets with increased home stocking by consumers.

1970s: Expansion of Kit Kat in Europe with manufacturing commencing in Hamburg, Germany

Kit Kat brand was boosted by an agreement with Hershey Corp. to sell the brand under licence in the USA.

An agreement is struck to sell Kit Kat in Japan with confectionery company Fujiya

1988: Nestlé acquires Rowntree

1989: Kit Kat production begins in a new Nestlé facility in Kasumigaura, Japan

1990s: Manufacturing operations set up in Malaysia, India, China.

1996: Kit Kat Orange, the first flavour variant, is launched in the UK

1999: Kit Kat Chunky launched in the UK, is an instant hit and quickly rolled into other developed markets.

2000: Nestlé buys Fujiya’s share in Japan

2000s: Manufacturing operations set up in Bulgaria, Russia, Turkey and Venezuela.

2002: Kit Kat Chunky expanded to Central and Eastern Europe

2005: Kit Kat Pop Choc launched

2007: Kit Kat Singles launched in Canada (later rolled into Malaysia and Western Europe)

2008: Kit Kat Senses launched in Europe and Canada

2010: 75 years of Kit Kat

Related information:
Kit Kat 75 years full circle(pdf, 824 Kb)
Photos on Flickr