Thursday, March 22, 2007

Store Brands

At one of the local markets today, I ran across this obvious knock-off of a Kit-Kat right next to the real deal on the shelf. The brand name is "Top Valu" (sic) and this bar was priced at 78 yen whereas Kit-Kats tend to range from 99 yen to 126 yen.

The bar itself is quite similar to a Kit-Kat except that the chocolate is marginally semi-sweet (as the box indicates) and Kit-Kats are milk chocolate. This bar is every bit like a Kit-Kat in other respects and doesn't seem like some cheap knock-off. In fact, it's possible that this is the same bar repackaged under a no name brand. I'm not a connoisseur of Kit-Kats and probably couldn't tell the difference in a side-by-side taste test.

I did some research into the company that made these and they have their own chain of markets. This appears to be their "store brand" but I hadn't seen it at local markets before. The company's name is Aeon (not to be confused with the English language school chain named Aeon).

There are some "generic" brands of food in Japan that come in a plain wrapper but I've never actually noticed the sort of relatively pervasive store brands you often see in the United States in supermarkets (though there are plenty of them in convenience stores). If you don't know what I mean by this, I mean things like the Kirkland brand at Costco which offers cheap versions of a wide variety of products from food to personal care to pet products. There may be a few one-off store brands in Japanese shops (like milk) but nothing like you see in the U.S.

While researching this article, I came across an interesting web site about the Japanese consumer market. I'm adding it to my links list. If you want to get a deeper look at what businesses are doing in Japan, you may want to check it out.


Luis said...

Well, this is pretty predictable, and used to be worse when the distribution system was even more controlled to steer users toward domestic knock-offs of foreign brands. I remember Cheetos coming out here, only to vanish when a Japanese brand showed up and got all the shelf space.

Nanny Haha said...

In the late 90s a couple of very popular books on the history of chocolate in America came out at about the same time. One was a really interesting book about the war between Hershey and M&M/Mars. Amazing what goes on behind the scenes with CHOCOLATE--it's a cut throat business! Anyway, it got me reading more about the history of chocolate in general and I found out that milk chocolate is something that is very unique to America. The Europeans, for example, use more bitter and/or dark chocolate. But Americans have the monopoly on milk chocolate. This would probably explain why the faux KitKat you mention in your post was almost exactly like the original except that the chocolate part was a bit off. Being that Americans specialize in milk chocolate (and our big chocolate companies like Hershey actually have top-secret patents on the recipe), it may be very difficult for the Japanese company to duplicate that.