A convenience store in Japan has a standard size and carries about 2,500 items. No room for loss leaders. Each store carefully monitors its inventory and its demographics to offer a limited number of fast moving items. Sushi and bread may be delivered several times a day. And if you see it on the shelf today, it may not be there tomorrow. With this in mind, a Nestle executive from Japan decided to offer limited edition Kit Kat bars. And so the banana, pineapple and green tea Kit Kat bars entered the marketplace. Then there was Tokyo soy sauce flavored Kit Kats which might seem somewhat unappealing to outsiders but Tokyo is said to have the very best soy sauce. No word on whether there is a fried rice version though.
It turns out that Japan could be renamed the Kit Kat nation of sorts due its seemingly endless variations on the popular chocolate wafer candy that originated in England in 1935. A cherry blossom Kit Kat bar comes out seasonally to coincide with the blossoms in spring. But the spectrum of flavors is much broader, encompassing wasabi, cucumber, lemon vinegar and pickled plum among others. Shoppers are unlikely to be bored because the flavors can change faster than the latest oil spill estimates. In terms of business model, it turns out the limited edition idea that worked so well in Japan did not easily cross borders. When the strategy was tried in the U.K. it failed. The Nestle executive believes it’s because customers in the U.K. are not accustomed to innovation in a candy bar. On the other hand, brands in Japan need to innovate to keep their limited shelf space stable.
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