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12 Snappy Facts About Kit Kat

First developed 80 years ago as "Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp," the Kit Kat bar has become a staple in grocery and convenience stores the world over. And while the marketing slogans and catchy jingles have changed over the years, that shareable chocolate-and-wafer design hasn’t. So take a break from whatever you’re doing and indulge in a few facts.

1. THE NAME ORIGINATED IN THE 17TH CENTURY.

Founded in the late 1690s, London’s Kit-Cat Club was a gathering of Whig party supporters and literary minds that met regularly at a pie shop on Shire Lane. The owner, Christopher Catling, specialized in making meat pies that everyone called "kit cats," after an abbreviated version of his name. Fast-forward two centuries when Joseph Rowntree, co-founder of the Rowntree’s candy company, zeroed in on the name and secured the title trademark in 1911. It’s not clear whether the famous club directly influenced Rowntree or not (or whether the popular Kappa Alpha Theta myth—that Rowntree's wife was a sorority member, and the name was an endearing acronym for Keep In Touch, Kappa Alpha Theta—had any part). In any case, the term "kit kat" had seen a resurgence in jazz age London. There was a Kit Kat nightclub at the time, as well as a Kit Kat band that drew regular crowds.

2. IT WAS ORIGINALLY A BOX OF CHOCOLATES.

After trademarking the names “Kit Kat” and “Kit Cat” in 1911, Rowntree proceeded to sit on them for a decade. In the 1920s, he came out with boxes of chocolates called Kit Cat that appeared on shelves for several years before being discontinued. In 1935, Rowntree’s introduced a chocolate wafer divided into four sections, or “fingers,” and called it Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. Two years later, the company changed the name to Kit Kat Chocolate Crisp.

3. IT WAS MADE TO ACCOMPANY PACKED LUNCHES.

The Kit Kat’s unique square-ish shape came about because Rowntree’s wanted to make a bar that workers could stuff inside their lunch sacks. An employee at Rowntree’s proposed the idea: “A chocolate bar that a man could take to work in his pack up (packed lunch).” The company developed the shape, further distinguished it by dividing it into four sections, and wrapped it all inside bright red packaging.

4. AND TO GO WITH A CUP OF TEA.

In an age when candy bars were often promoted as meal replacements, Rowntree’s marketed Kit Kat bars as “the biggest little meal.” To appeal to those who preferred it as a snack, Rowntree’s also came up with the slogan “the best companion to a cup of tea.” That concept of taking a tea break would help inspire an even more effective slogan in later years.

5. THE WRAPPER WAS BLUE FOR FIVE YEARS.

During World War II, a shortage of milk forced Rowntree’s to switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate in its Kit Kat bars. To signify the change, the company changed the wrapper from red to blue and dropped “Chocolate Crisp” from its title. They also offered a somber, spin-free message to customers: “Because no milk can be obtained for chocolate manufacture, the Chocolate Crisp you knew in peace-time can no longer be made. Kit Kat is the nearest possible product at the present time.”

6. THE “BREAK” CONCEPT CAME OUT IN 1958.

In the '50s, manufacturing innovations helped firm up Kit Kat bars to where breaking one apart made a distinctive snap. That inspired an ad man with J. Walter Thompson in London, who combined the “breaking” sound with the company’s long-running “tea break” theme to develop the slogan, “Have a Break, Have a Kit-Kat.” First used during a Kit Kat television ad in 1958, the phrase is still used in British ads today.

7. THEY’RE MADE BY BOTH HERSHEY’S AND NESTLE.

Switzerland-based Nestle bought Rowntree’s in 1988, giving it control over the Kit Kat global brand. A previous licensing agreement between The Hershey Company and Rowntree’s, though, meant Hershey’s had the right to license production of Kit Kats in the U.S. So while Nestle manufactures Kit Kats throughout the world, Hershey’s holds down manufacturing in America.

8. RESEARCH HAS PROVEN THE CATCHINESS OF THE "GIMME A BREAK" JINGLE.

Just mentioning that song probably lodged it firmly in your brain (sorry about that). Researchers at the University of Cincinnati show you’re not alone: They polled several hundred subjects to discover some common "earworms," or songs that people simply couldn’t get out of their head, and the "Gimme A Break" ad jingle, which first aired in 1986, was a common offender. The study, which was conducted in 2003, also called out "Y.M.C.A," "Who Let the Dogs Out," and the Mission: Impossible theme song.

9. THE SIZE AND NUMBER OF KIT KAT “FINGERS” VARIES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD.

For years, Nestle has sold a three-fingered Kit Kat in the Middle East to align with local currency, while in Japan there’s an extra-long “stick” as well as a half-finger “petite” variety. In Australia and New Zealand, there’s a 12-finger Kit Kat Block built for sharing.

10. THERE ARE SOME DECADENT VARIETIES ABROAD.

In the U.S., Hershey’s has stayed pretty conservative with its Kit Kat flavors, offering white and dark bars in addition to milk chocolate and a few seasonal options. Travel abroad, though, and you might stumble across a cheesecake Kit Kat, or a cookies and cream version. In the Philippines, you might find a Kit Kat Drumstick, which is basically an ice cream cone with a Kit Kat wafer jammed through it. And in the Middle East, Pizza Hut restaurants once offered miniature Kit Kats wrapped in pizza dough. If you're willing to shell out more than usual, you can even order many of these flavors online.

11. JAPAN HAS MORE THAN 200 FLAVORS.

Countries like England and the Philippines may have some interesting flavor riffs, but for sheer variety, none of them come close to Japan. There, Kit Kats come in regional flavors like yubari melon, corn, and green beans and cherry. There are also national staples like miso, green tea, and the most popular flavor of all: soy sauce. Part of the appeal stems from Kit Kat’s completely unintentional similarity to the phrase Kitto Katsu, which translates as “surely win” in Japanese. Over time, Kit Kats have become a popular good luck charm and gift. One tradition involves sending special Kit Kat postcards to college students just before big exams.

12. JAPAN ALSO MADE A “BAKEABLE” KIT KAT.

Just to prove its prowess as the world leader in Kit Kat innovations, Japan came out with bakeable Kit Kat bars last year. They’re essentially mini bars covered in dough, and infused with flavors like cheesecake and pudding. They caused quite a stir when they came out in Japan, and can apparently be found in select ethnic food stores stateside. One reviewer for L.A. Weekly gave them a thumbs up, saying they tasted like “a sweet, chocolate biscuit.”

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13 Secrets of Halloween Costume Designers
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For consumers, Halloween may be all about scares, but for businesses, it’s all about profits. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers will spend $9.1 billion this year on spooky goods, including a record $3.4 billion on costumes. “It’s an opportunity to be something you’re not the other 364 days of the year,” Jonathan Weeks, CEO of Costumeish.com, tells Mental Floss. “It feels like anything goes.”

To get a better sense of what goes into those lurid, funny, and occasionally outrageous disguises, we spoke to a number of designers who are constantly trying to react to an evolving seasonal market. Here’s what we learned about what sells, what doesn’t, and why adding a “sexy” adjective to a costume doesn’t always work.

1. SOME COSTUMES ARE JUST TOO OUTRAGEOUS FOR RETAIL

A woman models a scary nun costume for Halloween
iStock

For kids, Halloween is a time to look adorable in exchange for candy. For adults, it’s a time to push the envelope. Sometimes that means provocative, revealing costumes; other times, it means going for shock value. “You get looks at a party dressed as an Ebola worker,” Weeks says. “We have pregnant nun costumes, baby cigarette costumes.” The catch: You won’t be finding these at Walmart. “They’re meant for online, not Spencer’s or Party City.”

2. … BUT THERE ARE SOME LINES THEY WON’T CROSS.

Homeowners are scared by trick-or-treaters on Halloween
iStock

Although Halloween is the one day of the year people can deploy a dark sense of humor without inviting personal or professional disaster, some costume makers draw their own line when it comes to how far to exceed the boundaries of good taste. “We’ve never done a child pimp costume, but someone else has,” says Robert Berman, co-founder of Rasta Imposta, a business that broke into the industry on the strength of their fake dreadlock wig in 1992. Weeks says some questionable ideas that have been brought to the discussion table have stayed there. “There’s no toddler KKK costume or baby Nazi costume,” he says. “There is a line.”

3. THEY CAN DESIGN AND PRODUCE A COSTUME IN A MATTER OF DAYS.

A man models a costume in front of a mirror
Rob Stothard/Getty Images

A lot of costume interest comes from what’s been making headlines in the fall: Costumers have to be ready to meet that demand. “We’re pretty good at being able to react quickly,” says Pilar Quintana, vice-president of merchandising for Yandy.com. “Something happening in April may not be strong enough to stick around for Halloween.”

Because the mail-order site has in-house models and isn’t beholden to approval from big box vendors, Quintana can design and photograph a costume so it’s available within 72 hours. If it's more elaborate, it can take a little longer: Both Yandy and Weeks had costumes inspired by the Cecil the Lion story that broke in July 2015 (in which a trophy hunter from Minnesota killed an African lion) on their sites in a matter of weeks.

4. BEYONCE CAN HELP MOVE STALE INVENTORY.

A screen shot from Formation, a music video featuring Beyonce
beyonceVEVO, YouTube

Extravagant custom tailoring jobs aside, Halloween costumes are a business of instant demand and instant gratification—inventory needs to be plentiful in order to fill the deluge of orders that come in a short frame of time. If a business miscalculates the popularity of a given theme, they might be stuck with overstock until they can find a better idea to hang on it. “Last year, we had 400 or 500 Zorro costumes that we couldn’t sell for $10,” Weeks says. “It had a big black hat that came with it, and I thought, ‘That looks familiar.’ It turned out it looked a lot like the one Beyonce wore in her ‘Lemonade’ video.” Remarketed as a "Formation" hat for Beyonce cosplayers, Weeks moved his stock.

5. WOMEN DON’T USUALLY WEAR MASKS.

A man tries on a Joker mask at a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Curiously, there’s a large gender gap when it comes to the sculpted latex monster masks offered by Halloween vendors: They’re sold almost exclusively to men. “There just aren’t a lot of masks with female characters,” Weeks says. “I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s because men in general like gory, scary costumes.” One exception: Hillary Clinton masks, which were all the rage last year.

6. FOOD COSTUMES ARE ALWAYS A HIT.

A dog wears a hot dog costume for Halloween
iStock

At Rasta Imposta, Berman says political and pop culture trends can shift their plans, but one theme is a constant: People love to dress up as food. “We’ve had big success with food items. Bananas, pickles. We did an avocado.” Demand for these faux-edible costumes can occasionally get ugly: Rasta is currently suing Sears and Kmart for selling a banana costume that they allege infringes on Rasta’s copyrighted version, which has blackened ends and a vertical stripe.

7. ADDING ”SEXY” TO EVERYTHING DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK.

A packaged Halloween costume hangs on a store rack
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

It’s a recurring joke that some costume makers only need to add a “sexy” adjective to a design concept in order to make it marketable. While there’s some truth to that—Quintana references Yandy’s “sexy poop emoji” costume—it’s no guarantee of success. “We had a concept for ‘sexy cheese’ that was a no-go,” she says. “'Sexy corn’ didn’t really work at all. ‘Sexy anti-fascist’ didn’t make the cut this year.”

8. PEOPLE ASK FOR SOME WEIRD STUFF.

A person appears in a skull costume with glowing eyes for Halloween
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In addition to monitoring social media for memes and trends, designers can get an idea of what consumers are looking for by shadowing their online searches. Costumeish.com monitors what people are typing into their search bar to see if they’re missing out on a potential hit. “People search for odd things sometimes,” Weeks says. “People want to be a cactus, a palm tree, they’re looking for a priest and a boy costume. People can be weird.”

9. THEY HAVE WORKAROUNDS FOR BIG PROPERTIES.

Go out to a party this year and you’re almost guaranteed to run into the Queen of the North. But not every costume maker has the official license for Game of Thrones. What are other companies to do? Come up with a design that sparks recognition without sparking a lawsuit. “Our biggest seller right now is Sexy Northern Queen,” Quintana says. “It’s inspired by a TV show.” But she won’t say which one.

10. PEOPLE LOVE SHARKS.

Singer Katy Perry appears on stage with two dancing sharks
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

From the clunky Ben Cooper plastic costume from 1975’s Jaws to today, people can’t seem to get enough of shark-themed outfits. “We do a lot of sharks,” Berman says. “Maybe it’s because of Shark Week in the summertime, but sharks always tend to trend. People just like the idea of sharks.”

11. DEAD CELEBRITIES MEAN SALES.

A portrait of Hugh Hefner hangs in the Playboy Mansion
Hector Mata/Getty Images

It may be morbid, but it’s a reality: The high-profile passing of celebrities, especially close to Halloween, can trigger a surge in sales. “Before Robin Williams died, I couldn’t sell a Mork costume for a dollar,” Weeks says. “After he died, I couldn’t not sell it for less than $100.” This year, designers expect Hugh Hefner to fuel costume ideas—unless something else pops up suddenly to grab their attention. “Last year, when Prince died, that was almost trumped by [presidential debate audience member] Ken Bone,” Berman says. “He became almost more popular than Prince.”

12. THEY PROFIT FROM PEOPLE SHOPPING AT THE LAST MINUTE.

A man shops for Halloween costumes in a retail store
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

Ever wonder why food and other novelty costumes tend to outsell traditional garb like pirates and witches? Because costume shopping for adults is usually done frantically and they don’t have time to compare 25 different Redbeards. “People tend to do it at the very last minute, so we want something that pops out at them,” Berman says. “Like, ‘Oh, I want to be a crab.’”

Weeks agrees that procrastination is profitable. “We make a lot of money on shipping,” he says. “Some people get party invites on the 25th and so they’re paying for next-day air.”

13. IT’S NOT ACTUALLY A SEASONAL BUSINESS.

A woman shops for costumes in a retail store
Rhona Wise/Getty Images

Everyone we spoke to agreed that the most surprising thing about the Halloween business is that it’s not really seasonal on their end. Costumes are designed year-round, and planning can take between 12 and 18 months. “It’s 365 days a year,” Quintana says. “We’ll start thinking about next Halloween in December.” Weeks says he'll begin planning in May 2018—for Halloween 2019.

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This Just In
Target Expands Its Clothing Options to Fit Kids With Special Needs
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Target

For kids with disabilities and their parents, shopping for clothing isn’t always as easy as picking out cute outfits. Comfort and adaptability often take precedence over style, but with new inclusive clothing options, Target wants to make it so families don’t have to choose one over the other.

As PopSugar reports, the adaptive apparel is part of Target’s existing Cat & Jack clothing line. The collection already includes items made without uncomfortable tags and seams for kids prone to sensory overload. The latest additions to the lineup will be geared toward wearers whose disabilities affect them physically.

Among the 40 new pieces are leggings, hoodies, t-shirts, bodysuits, and winter jackets. To make them easier to wear, Target added features like diaper openings for bigger children, zip-off sleeves, and hidden snap and zip seams near the back, front, and sides. With more ways to put the clothes on and take them off, the hope is that kids and parents will have a less stressful time getting ready in the morning than they would with conventionally tailored apparel.

The new clothing will retail for $5 to $40 when it debuts exclusively online on October 22. You can get a sneak peek at some of the items below.

Adaptive jacket from Target.
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Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

Adaptive apparel from Target.

[h/t PopSugar]

All images courtesy of Target.

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