Friday, July 3, 2009

Variety Friday: Deconstructing Vending Machine KitKats

In America, candy and junk food of various stripes is frequently sold in vending machines. Japan has a plethora of vending machines, but very few (or none) that sell candy. Because of this, selling KitKats in vending machines requires the Japanese to package it rather differently. The picture at the top of this post was taken by my husband while he was out on a sojourn in a shopping district of Tokyo. I have never actually seen a vending machine that carries KitKats with my own eyes.

When he brought back this picture, I wished he had bought one of these vending machine KitKats so I could see what the deal was. The information on the machine says that there are 6 mini KitKat bars for 190 yen ($1.80). This represents adequate value for the cost. A regular KitKat is 100 yen (about a dollar) and it takes about 3 minis to make one regular bar.

I still haven't seen a KitKat sold in a vending machine, but the local 99 yen shop was carrying these jars of KitKats which are obviously designed to be sold in vending machines. Since the vending machines are specialized for beverages, the only way to distribute candy bars is to put them in a container which is about the size and shape of a beverage can. My guess is these jars were stock that hadn't sold or that the coming of summer heat means they believe people won't be buying chocolate from vending machines because it'll melt too quickly when it is carried around after purchase.

The vending machine pictured above has just standard bars, but this jar carries both regular and caramel purin KitKats. I don't need to review the bars themselves because I already reviewed the caramel purin mini and I don't need to talk about a milk chocolate version. I paid only 100 yen (about a dollar) for this. That makes it nearly half the price of what they'd be if I bought them from a vending machine, but this is actually a lesser value than the 6 minis for 190 yen above. This is essentially a regular KitKat plus 2 minis (about one and two-thirds KitKats for the price of one bar).

There's a perforated tab at the top for you to grab and easily tear off the plastic wrapper, but mine splintered off after a pull. The perforation goes all the way down the side. I just gave the rest of it a yank until it fell off. The perforation isn't hard to rip, but the plastic is so tight against the can that the shearing force is in a spiral around the can, not straight down.

The bars are packed in a glass jar with a replaceable plastic lid that easily pops on and off. I find it curious that they chose glass since it's a little heavy and trash cans aren't exactly everywhere in Tokyo. Though recycling bins for drinking bottles and cans are often right next to beverage vending machines, the chances that someone will buy one of these, open it up and deal with it right in front of the machine is relatively low.

The jar's ability to be resealed and relatively convenient size (same size as a 12 oz./350 ml. can of soda) means you might be able to put it to some sort of use for storage. I don't know if it'd be safe for food, but certainly for some sort of office, craft, or tool-related supplies, it'd be handy. At any rate, now my curiosity about how they put together the vending machine versions of these has been satisfied and I'm unlikely to be buying one again. It's cool how they packaged something which wouldn't normally be sold in a vending machine in Japan such that it can easily be distributed without changes to the machine. However, it is rather wasteful.


Marvo said...

I noticed the perforation on the bottles of soda you purchased for me. Are the wrappers not recyclable?

Orchid64 said...

I hear that the wrappers fall into a different category of recyclable materials than PET bottles. We're told that we have to put the caps and labels into one sort of trash and the bottles into another.

In Japan, the caps and labels go into what is called "pura" trash, but I have read that it is burned at a different temperature than other burnable trash rather than recycled (as many believe).

Kelly said...

I noticed that the mini's have the Halloween design on them don't they? So that makes them pretty old. Are they still okay to eat?

Orchid64 said...

The expiration date is still far in the future. I think that they just didn't bother to change the design, not that these are leftover from Halloween.

The Japanese don't really care much about accuracy for such things. Halloween isn't really a holiday here.

Jen in Japan said...

OMG I want one! I'm adding Kit Kat in a can (or should that be Kan) to my list. Do you mind if I use that first picture on my own blog? I would credit you of course, or if not that then can I link to this post?

Anonymous said...

So cool. I'd love to visit Japan. They seem to have the coolest ideas.

Orchid64 said...

Hi, Jen, and thanks for having the courtesy to ask about using the photo (most people just take it ;-) ). You have my permission. You'll probably have to search a bit to find a machine that sells them in the can, but I think that there are some in the major areas of Tokyo like Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Tokyo.

Hi, Skinnyplate, and thanks for commenting. They are inventive. I think a lot of the cool stuff comes from the limits on space that are here. There are some interesting parking solutions as well. If you can't cram in another machine, you work with the ones you've got.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I've seen this in vending machines on visits to Japan but I've always assumed it was a Kit Kat flavored chocolate drink. Now I know

illahee said...

i'm not a huge kit-kat fan so i have never purchased any from a vending machine. very interesting!