The Kit Kat Konspiracy

Welcome to the Kit Kat Konspiracy! Here you shall find my amazing chronicle into the world of Kit Kat which includes suspense, deception, profiteering, and overall bad taste.


I had known for awhile that foods which I am accustomed to in the United States taste slightly different elsewhere in the world. Truely the meatless Big Macs you can find in India are a testament to this. However, nothing was to prepare me for the shock I received in Japan, when I found amongst the wasabi flavored potato chips and daifuku a simple Kit Kat; ah, but this was no ordinary Kit Kat: this was chocolate heaven!

You see, this Kat Kat was like no other I had had before. So rich, so smooth, so crunchy. I had felt deceived, indeed: all other Kit Kats I had had growing up as a child had now seemed like chewing on low quality candle wax! Why the difference? I had to know!

Listed upon the high quality red wrapper of the Japanese Kit Kat was the address of the Nestle website. Upon arriving with Mozilla, I promptly found the consumer inquiries area and wrote them an e-mail inquiring about the taste difference in Internationally born vs. domestic Kit Kats. Here was their reply:

Thank you for contacting us.

Kit Kat Information: Kit Kat bars sold outside of the United States are manufactured by Nestle. All Kit Kat bars sold in the United States are manufactured by Hershey. Kit Kat is a Nestle brand marketed by Nestle outside the United States. It is not imported into the United States by Nestle. The product is licensed to Hershey's for sale in the United States and, per the agreement, only Hershey's can sell it here. For questions or comments, please contact Hershey's: (800) 468-1714

Once again, we thank you for thinking of us and look forward to serving you in the future.

Agast! So it is Hersey's to blame!! I must write them a letter!
Upon arriving at my chocolatey mortal enemy's webpage, I try desperately to find the consumer complaints page...However, my efforts were in vain. They must receive too many complaints! I was not to be so easily dissuaded!

I proceeded to find their business-to-business sales division, which of course has an e-mail form eager to receive orders from the cheap chocolate retailers of America. I pounded out a serious letter asking why, pray tell, their chocolate tastes like candle wax. How dare they disgrace the Kit Kat name I had grown to love as a small child.

Of course, their reply was all too predictable:

We appreciate your interest in Hershey's products. You requested information from the Hershey's Food Service site for restaurants and foodservice operators. The type of information you are requesting is retail product based and not foodservice related. Please call the Hershey's consumer hotline between the ho.urs of 8-5pm EST at 1-800-468-1714 and they will answer your questions. Or try our website!

I have replied twice, informing them that their website does not have a consumer complaint e-mail address or form. I have yet to receive a reply.

Finally! A reply! This e-mail I received from the Hershey's PR department just reeks of corporate filtering:

Thank you for your recent contact.

Our goal is to manufacture products with widespread consumer appeal. Because consumers' preferences vary, we may not always succeed. We are disappointed when that happens. Since we work closely with our Brands Managers to keep them informed of what consumers like and dislike about our products.

The KIT KAT wafer bar is manufactured under license from Nestles of Europe and we are required to follow specific specification for the manufacturing of this product. However, we will share your feedback with the Marketing Department.

We appreciate your interest in our product.
Ahh, how easily they evade the issue! Do they not have an explanation as to why their product tastes like candle-wax domestically? I will reply and be more direct.
In the interest of the public, I have made the following reply. I offer them no escape from my hard-driving questions!
Dear Hershey's PR,

What I am concerned with is that I feel as though the American
taste profile is being grossly under-estimated in comparison with
their European and Asian counterparts. I am not sure of the exact
details of the licensing agreement with Nestle's; however if
offered a choice between the two tastes offered by the different
Kit Kat products I would choose the Nestle's product every time.

However, there is another issue I would like to raise. As a
small child I remember distinctly the taste of Kit Kat products
being more "chocolatey" than they are currently. This change has
been verified by several of friends, family, and co-workers. Has
the cocoa supplier changed? Has ratio of cocoa to fat changed?
Does this change track well with changes in the American taste
profile? Do you then assume that the American taste profile
prefers candle wax to chocolate?

Thank you and Best Regards,

Food Consumer

As you can see, I have left them no option but to answer me directly! Please reply to this node if there is some hard line of questioning I have overlooked, or if there is any other Kit Kat issue you would like me to raise!
06/20/2000 (Updated):
A swift reply from Hershey's! I can tell now that I am moving up the scale of corporate priorties! I think they can tell I am a PR disaster waiting to happen; indeed a powder-keg of bad press! Take a read of this reply:

Mr. A.P.,

As previously stated, this product is under license. There has been no formula change to the product. However, the basic ingredients are agricultural products, therefore, sometimes subtle changes may be detected by consumers.

I will forward your comments to our Brands Manager for the KIT KAT wafer bar.

Consumer Relations
Hershey Foods Corporation
Please find below my carefully calculated reply. I want to know the truth, but I fear I can't handle the truth! Something is different between Kit Kat bars found in the United States and those found Internationally...I just want to know what they won't tell us...

Here is my reply:
Dear Hershey's Consumer Relations,

You have stated that this product is under license. However,
you have not stated specifically which part of this product is
under license. Do you just license the name or the entire wafer
bar product? If you import or use domestically produced, "KIT KAT
wafer bar," products fron Nestles, how do you account for the
taste difference?

I plan on purchasing an adequate amount of, "KIT KAT," product
while I am here in Japan to run double-blind taste trials when I
return to US, as I have done with some European and Canadian product
in the past. I will inform you of the results of these trials.

Food Consumer
On January 14th, 2002 I returned with a shopping bag full of Kit Kat Bar's I purchased on a trip to Hong Kong. When I was there I found them to be absolutely delicious: so rich and chocolatey. Again, not at all what the American version tastes like.

I purchased a number of the American bars at my local grocery and ran a blind taste test with the Asian bars on my family. I had to make my test subjects close their eyes because even the color of the bars is dramatically different. I am now confident that the foreign bars contain much more cocoa content. Everyone in my family was able to identify the foreign bar.

I would like to compare these Hong Kong bars now to their Japanese and Canadian peers, but unfortunately I do not have any ready supplies.

In addition to my more conclusive findings I am finding evidence of a larger, more complex, international chocolate conspiracy. Along with the Kit Kats from Honks, I also brought back a number of bags of M&Ms that also taste quite different from their domestic counterparts. The shells were crisper and again, the chocolate was darker and of higher quality.

Enough evidence! I want answers!!

This node shall be updated with more information as it becomes available! That's all for now!

Food Consumer

I must agree with Mr. Protozoa. The Kit Kat bars manufactured outside the U.S. are different. They use Nestle chocolate instead of Hershy's chocolate. The chocolate used to make the non-U.S. version of the Kit Kat is the exact same recipe as the chocolate found in Nestle Crunch. Surprisingly, the non-U.S. Kit Kats tastes strangely similar to Nestle Crunch (the chocolate is the same, and the little rice crispies have pretty much the same flavor as the Kit Kat wafer).

If you live near Half Moon Bay, California, I found a little store off main street there named The Village Store. It imports little treats from England. One of which is the Nestle Kit Kat. So, if you are in the area, you can pick one up there.

FYI there are several versions of Kit Kat in the UK (and in the US I'm sure). Traditional four-finger bars in traditional silver foil; four-finger bars in 'vending machine' packs (sealed for freshness - yummm...); single-finger 'chunky' bars with thicker chocolate and more crunch; ice-cream bars (which I have never tasted).
Having tasted all but the ice-cream variety, I can testify that the the 'chunky' bars are the best.

I just finished reading The Emperors of Chocolate by Joel Glenn Brenner. This book documents the history of both the Hershey and Mars empires. Apparently, Hershey "perfected" its blend of chocolate almost a century ago. Their "special flavor" was probably the result of rancid milk enzymes. The company has never changed their recipe since then, fearing to tamper with a sure thing.

When Hershey tried to market its wares in Canada it was a total flop - Canadians like a different form of chocolate. The book talks about what sort of chocolate flavor is favored by different nationalities.

The book also documents Hershey's acquisition of the right to manufacture Kit-Kat bars in the U.S., and yes, Hershey uses their own recipe of chocolate to cover the beloved cookie bar.

European chocolate manufacturers interviewed for the book rate Hershey's chocolate flavor as barn-yard chocolate.

To be honest, I'm a bit afraid of A. P.'s potential reaction to this news, but starting last year, fruit-flavoured Kit Kats have been released in Hokkaido. So far, I have sampled banana, pineapple, and strawberry. To the best of my knowledge, these flavours are still not to be found anywhere else in the world.

Delicious. But proof of further conspiracy against ignorant American consumers?

As Hokkaido is barely even part of Japan, and only so because tourists come from the rest of Japan, there seems to be only one URL on the entire internet with pertinent information. (At least in English. I dare not search for information on fruit-flavoured Kit Kats in Japanese.) Here it is.
Banana Kit Kat, Say It Ain't So.

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