Kit Kat is a chocolate-covered wafer biscuit bar confection that was created by Rowntree’s of York, England, and is now produced globally by Nestlé (which acquired Rowntree in 1988) with the exception of the United States where it is made under license by The Hershey Company. Each bar consists of fingers composed of three layers of wafer, covered in an outer layer of chocolate. Each finger can be snapped from the bar separately. Bars typically have two or four fingers, although the larger Kit Kat Chunky bars are a single solid block marked into three sections.
Following on from its success in the United Kingdom, in the 1940s “Kit Kat” was exported to Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. In 1958, Donald Gilles, the executive at JWT Orland, created the iconic advertising line “Have a Break, Have a Kit Kat”. The brand further expanded in the 1970s when Rowntree created a new distribution factory in Germany to meet European demand, and established agreements to distribute the brand in the USA and Japan through the Hershey and Fujiya companies, respectively. In June 1988 Nestlé acquired Kit Kat through the purchase of Rowntree’s. This gave Nestlé global control over the brand, except in the US, and production and distribution increased with new facilities in Japan and additional manufacturing operations set up in Malaysia, India and China.
The Hershey Company has a licence to produce Kit Kat bars in the United States which dates from 1970, when Hershey executed a licensing agreement with Rowntree. Nestlé, which has a substantial presence in the US, had to honour the licensing agreement when it bought Rowntree in 1988 which allowed Hershey to retain the Kit Kat licence so long as Hershey was not sold. As Kit-Kat is one of Hershey’s top five brands in the U.S. market, the Kit Kat licence was a key factor in Hershey’s failed attempt to attract a serious buyer in 2002.
Variants in the traditional chocolate bar first appeared in 1996 when “Kit Kat Orange”, the first flavour variant, was introduced in the United Kingdom. Its success was followed by several varieties including mint and caramel, and in 1999 “Kit Kat Chunky” was launched and received favourably by international consumers. Variations on the traditional “Kit Kat” have continued to develop throughout the 2000s. In 2000 Nestlé acquired Fujiya’s share of the brand in Japan, and also expanded its marketplace in Japan, Russia, Turkey, and Venezuela, in addition to markets in Eastern and Central Europe. Throughout the decade ‘Kit Kat’ has introduced dozens of flavours and line extensions within specific consumer markets, and celebrated its 75th anniversary on 10 October 2009.
The traditional bar has four fingers which each measure approximately 1 centimetre (0.4 in) by 9 centimetres (3.5 in). A two-finger bar was launched in the 1930s, and has remained the company’s best-selling biscuit brand ever since. The 1999 “Kit Kat Chunky” (known as “Big Kat” and “Kit Kat Extra Crispy” in the US) has one large finger approximately 2.5 centimetres (1 in) wide. Kit Kat bars contain varying numbers of fingers depending on the market, ranging from the half-finger sized Kit Kat Petit in Japan, to the three-fingered variants in Arabia, to the twelve-finger family-size bars in Australia and France. Kit Kat bars are sold individually and in bags, boxes and multi-packs. In Ireland, the UK and America Nestlé also produces a Kit Kat ice cream, and in Australia and Malaysia, “Kit Kat Drumsticks”.
In 2010 a new £5 million manufacturing line was opened by Nestlé in York. This will produce more than a billion Kit Kat bars each year.
Kit Kat bars are produced in 15 countries by Nestlé: Brazil, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Russia, Japan, China, Malaysia, India, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Bulgaria. Kit Kat bars in the United States are produced under licence by The Hershey Company, a Nestlé competitor, due to a prior licensing agreement with Rowntree.