Kit Kat’s 75 but the heavy lifting was done by Rowntree’s not Nestle

You can’t blame Nestle for basking in the glory of 75 years of Kit Kat chocolate biscuit bar production (it claims to sell nearly 18 billion ‘fingers’ a year) but Kit Kat was invented by UK firm Rowntree’s in York in 1935 and was a huge seller before Nestle bought Rowntree’s in 1988.

Agency J. Walter Thompson (as it was known in that more gentlemanly era) also did its share of the heavy lifting, handling the account more or less throughout. A London agency employee Donald Gilles (a copywriter presumably) is credited with inventing the famous line ‘Have a break, have a Kit Kat’ back in 1957 or 1958, which perfectly suited the era when toiling factory workers were granted time for a drink and a snack at 11am.

For some bizarre reason Rowntree’s named the brand, which started life as a boxed chocolate assortment, after the Kit Kat Club, a 17th century literary and political meeting place. This is not to be confused with Berlin’s thriving and notorious KitKat Club where ‘highly original fetish and glamour outfits’ are de rigueur.

Brand Republic has an interesting collection of ads here.

But none quite so bizarre as this US effort from 1977. Kit Kat is produced under licence by Hershey in the US, a deal stemming from Rowntree’s days. 1977 was, you may recall, an era known for its liberal use of narcotics, in the creative fraternity anyway.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.