Thin and crispy, wafers are often enjoyed while they’re sandwiching cream — but for decades, candy companies have also incorporated them into tasty, textural confections.
Kit Kat, first launched in 1937 under that name, continues to capture consumers around the globe. Nestlé says the brand is available in 80 countries, and with a handful of Kit Kat Chocolatory stores around the world, consumers have a chance to make their own wafer-based confections.
The brand continues to perform in the United States, where its licensed and manufactured by the The Hershey Co. Kit Kat, in package sizes 3.5 oz. or less, is among the Top 5 brands tracked by Chicago-based research firm IRI, pulling in $322.28 million over the year ending Nov. 3, 2019.
In the 3.5 oz. or less chocolate bar, bag or box category, Kit Kat has 7.25 percent of the market share. In the chocolate candy snack-size category, it has nearly 10 percent of the market share, generating $105.18 million over the year ending Nov. 3, 2019.
The Hershey Co. cited the texture and flavor experience as the source of its appeal.
“The chocolate coating of a Kit Kat bar surrounding the iconic wafers is what makes the sweet and crunch come together,” Hershey representatives said in an email interview. “It makes you take a break during the day to break off a piece.”
Terrance Rooney, president of Loacker USA, also pointed to taste and texture, which the company combines in products such as Loacker Classic, Quadratini and Loacker Chocolate Bars.
“Adding a coating of real chocolate to Loacker wafers creates a terrific taste experience,” he said. “The fine hazelnut cream, in combination with light, crispy wafers and and a chocolate coating make the experience so special for consumers.”
Loacker isn’t the only company to marry hazelnut, chocolate and wafers in a winning combination. Ferrero Group, maker of Ferrero Rocher wafer and hazelnut confections, also introduced the globally popular Kinder Bueno bar in the U.S. this month. It features a thin, crispy wafer, a creamy hazelnut filling and a milk chocolate shell drizzled with dark chocolate.
“It delivers a superior, premium eating experience that’s accessible to everyone every day,” Paul Chibe, president and ceo of Ferrero USA, recently told Candy Industry. “That’s something that just lends itself to being a great business here for us, a great opportunity for us.”
In addition to texture, the neutral flavor of wafers serve as an ideal base for flavor innovation.
The Kit Kat brand has a history of launching unique flavors, particularly in Asian countries such as South Korea and Japan. Among the flavors that have been available in Japan are Matcha, Cantaloupe, Pear, Passionfruit, and of course, Ruby chocolate.
At the end of November, Nestlé also launched in Japan the Chocolatory Cacao Fruit Chocolate, the first product to use Nestlé’s chocolate made entirely from the cacao fruit. It’s sweetened with dried, powdered white cacao pulp instead of sugar.
Meanwhile, in the U.S. The Hershey Co. has expanded Kit Kat offerings beyond the traditional milk chocolate variety, launching Dark and White Chocolate versions over the last few years, as well as seasonal varieties such as Pumpkin Pie.
In May 2019, Hershey announced the introduction of Kit Kat Duos, featuring a two-in-one flavor combination. The Mint + Dark Chocolate version is set to hit shelves in December, with more varieties expected in 2020.
“Kit Kat here in the U.S. is continuing to look at flavors and innovations that our consumers ask for,” Hershey said.
Loacker also plays with flavor, particularly in its range of Quadratini, bite-sized pieces featuring five wafer layers and four cream layers. In addition to Vanilla, Chocolate, Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut, Quadratini are available in Coconut, Tiramisu, Raspberry-Yoghurt, Blueberry-Yoghurt, and the newest variety, Matcha Green Tea.
“The launch (of Matcha) is off to a terrific start in the specialty and ethnic markets,” Rooney said.
Rooney also noted Loacker’s wafer chocolate bars have continued to gain momentum since their launch a few years ago. This fall, Loacker USA launched the Duality chocolate bar, featuring dual layers of chocolate – white caramel and 38% milk cocoa – melted over wafer crispies.
“For years, consumers were reaching out to Loacker with requests for a chocolate bar with our light, crispy wafers but without all the artificial colors, flavors and preservatives,” Rooney said. “Sales of the bars have doubled in the past year with much room for future growth.”