Monday, January 21, 2013

Tokyo Regional Rum Raisin KitKat (and new releases)

Based on when I ran a contest to win a box of these particular KitKats and the timing on reviewing them, you might guess how high my level of enthusiasm is for them. Yes, I've had them around for weeks and only yesterday did I get around to breaking the seal on my box. It's not that I thought it was going to be bad or anything. I just didn't expect it to be particularly "good". I felt that the best I could hope for was that it would be "interesting" and not too disgustingly sweet. The question before me as I unwrapped a mini bar was whether or not Nestle Japan was going to manage to struggle over the very low bar that I was setting for this candy.

These smell vaguely fruity, which is slightly disturbing considering there is no sign of actual raisins in them. The bars are smooth white chocolate over nice, crispy wafers. The first thing that hits you is the very, very sweet white chocolate followed by the rum. The raisin comes through at the end on the initial taste, but builds in intensity as you eat more.

Since I don't drink alcohol, I don't know what rum tastes like. I asked my husband to try this. He took a bite, made a bad face, and said it was "too raisiny" and said essentially that it did not taste like rum to him. Personally, I think that rum raisin in general is one of the less approachable flavors, but that it can have its charms. Depending on the presentation, they can be like the guy everyone wants to talk to at the party, or the one that has people making excuses to escape to the bathroom or looking at their watch and talking about having to go home. This bar is somewhere in between. If this bar were the metaphorical equivalent of a guy at a party, I'd talk to this guy for a little while, but not for too terribly long. 

I got this box by asking my brother-in-law to pick it up at Narita airport on his way to visit family over the holidays. I was shocked to discover that it is being sold currently on Amazon for a pretty penny. You can procure it at less dear a price via J-Box. I caution those who may think this will be the most interesting thing since sliced bread that it mainly has novelty value. I expect to take months to eat twelve of these. It'll have to be one of those things where the spirit moves me for me to have one. It definitely would not satisfy an authentic chocolate craving, nor one for wafers. I don't regret asking my brother-in-law to pick it up, but mainly that's because I was keen to review it. I wouldn't buy it again.

And a few bits of news just for added fun:
Images from this point on are from Nestle Japan's web site.

Incidentally, Nestle Japan is currently marketing something they call a "KitKat chocolate lab". To the best of my ability to tell, Nestle has a deal where you can order a box of KitKats with a custom cover featuring a picture of your choice. You have to buy 10 boxes and each box has 3 mini bars. The price for this is very reasonable at 2310 yen ($25.66). In yen, that sounds a lot less expensive than it does in dollars.

This target for this isn't people who want their kids to appear on a box of candy. It is for people who want personalized favors such as those having weddings or special events. At 231 yen ($2.56) a box for what amounts to about half of what you get in a regular KitKat bar box for half that price, it is not good candy value for money, but it's rather nifty for a major brand to be a part of your personal event. I can't imagine people having the chance to customize a box of Snickers bars, for example. 

Nestle Japan seems to be shifting their marketing now from issuing a ton of weird KitKat flavors (which perhaps are not selling especially well) to packaging. In addition to the custom boxes in the aforementioned paragraphs, they are also releasing a box with a MOS Burger theme (available at the Japanese fast food joint, MOS burger) with a space to write a message, so perhaps these are meant to say, "I was picking up a fast food burger and I thought of you. Here's some consumer-level chocolate to express my feelings."

The red and white packaging.

Exam pack with messages imprinted on milk chocolate bars.

The "snake" packaging.

Picking over the Nestle Japan site, I could not find anything in the way of new flavors. There is a "red and white" bag of minis which has white and milk chocolate bars as well as an "exam pack" which has bars imprinted with encouraging messages for students preparing to take exams. Finally, there is a box with the Chinese year of the snake motif. It was directly targeted toward grandparents for distribution to their grandchildren at the New Year.

I'm wondering if, at least for a little while, the days of a plethora of funky KitKat flavors are over. I saw enough of the weird ones end up in massive bargain bins at snack discount shops like Okashi no Machioka to know that they probably did not sell all that well. Also, when novelty flavors are the norm, it's not surprising that the market loses interest. I know that I certainly lost interest as time went on. In terms of the cost to Nestle Japan, targeting markets based on packaging is probably a better idea. They can still hold the novelty market by focusing on regional flavors (which don't change often, and have appeal as they represent the flavors/foods of a particular area), but make most new releases target lifestyle rather than taste buds. 


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Sherry said...

I imagine these customized boxes also have a lot to do with the fact Tirol has been offering custom labels on some of their chocolates for a while. I know for a fact those have been very popular with the elementary kids for Valentine's Day the past couple years.

gossip_bangkok said...

I love the Regional KitKat new packagings. I brought the Shinshu apple, Yokohama strawberry cheesecake and 甲信越 area's blueberry cheesecake from Nestle online store last week. I simply love their shiny new packaging. It definitely made the products look more expensive. As for the taste, I have yet to taste them. :P Also, have you heard of Kitkat's 味遊記 that was released in late 2012, which is a kitkat box that contains all flavors of regional kitkat in one box? I still in dilemma on whether I should buy it.

Orchid64 said...

gossip_bangkok: I hadn't seen that new box, but it's a very good idea!