Serious Eats: Sweets
Snapshots from Norway: Kvikk Lunsj, More Than a Norwegian Kit Kat Bar
Last month I visited Bergen, Norway. Here's a look at something I ate during my trip.
To most of the world, Kvikk Lunsj, one of Norway's most popular and iconic chocolate bars from Freia, one of Norway's oldest chocolate companies, may not seem like anything special. At least, not anything unique. It looks just like a Kit Kat bar—a Kit Kat bar with the more utilitarian name "quick lunch," a role fulfilled by 250 calories of chocolate-covered wafers.
But to Norwegians, the chocolate bar has another meaning: Hiking. Trekking. Skiing. Being active outdoors. The Kvikk Lunch slogan is "Tursjokoladen"—the hiking or trekking chocolate. For over 70 years, Kvikk Lunsj has maintained its bold tri-colored identity as the Norwegian companion to the great outdoors, and its popularity continues to grow.
How popular is Kvikk Lunsj? According to kraftfoodsnordic.com, every Norwegian eats nine Kvikk Lunsj bars a year (for reference, Norway's population was about 4.8 million in 2009). 25 percent of the bar's annual production are eaten during Easter week, prime vacation time for Norwegians.*
Last year's record sales of Kvikk Lunsj were attributed to the good weather—good weather means more outdoor activities, and more outdoor activities means, naturally, eating more Kvikk Lunsj. Visitors to kvikklunsj.no are bombarded not with chocolate, but with photos from Kvikk Lunsj eaters' hiking trips, along with options to create you own slide show or enter a contest to win a stay at a mountain resort.
The back and inside of the wrapper features a profile of a notable trekker. This one features a man named Are Løset, but other bars may feature someone different. The blurb in the red box reads, "Are has worked hard for many years to get youth to the mountains through Trondheim Tourist Association," with more information (including a map of one of Are's favorite routes) on the inside wrapper. The red T-symbol is the logo for the Norwegian Trekking Association. "Takk for turen," means, "Thank you for the trip," a common way to thank your trekking buddies for their company after completing a trip. It can be used for anything though, not just trekking.
This commercial made for Kvikk Lunsj's 70th anniversary celebrates the glory of the outdoors. Build a bridge. Drink fresh water out of a stream. Take a hike in the woods. And do it all while eating Kvikk Lunsj. Even Norwegian dogs know the significance of Kvikk Lunsj. And you can't go skiing without Kvikk Lunsj, as illustrated in these print ads from the 1930s to 1990s.
Not being Norwegian, I can't give personal insight into Kvikk Lunsj's symbolism, but here's a sweet description (pun not intended) from Gerd Aarnes, a Norwegian in America:
You are so much more than a chocolate bar to me. You are everything I like about Norway: hiking with my family, reaching the goal and take a break, simplicity and purity.
Taste Test: Kvikk Lunsj vs. Kit Kat
Like a Kit Kat, Kvikk Lunsj consists of four conjoined planks of milk chocolate-covered triple-stacked wafers. Kvikk Lunsj was released by Freia in 1937, two years after Rowntree's of England launched Kit Kat. As Nestlé bought Rowntee in 1988, today Kit Kats are produced by Nestlé worldwide, except in the US where they're made by Hershey under license from Nestlé. Kvikk Lunsj is produced by Kraft Foods, who bought Freia in 1993.
We did a blind taste test between Kvikk Lunsj, Hersey's Kit Kat, and Nestlé's Kit Kat from the UK. They may all look the same, but your taste buds will tell you otherwise.**
Across the board, tasters thought Kvikk Lunsj had the creamiest, milkiest chocolate. Some also thought it was slightly salty compared to the other bars. Its wafer was noted for being super crisp and having a nutty flavor.
Most tasters chose the British Kit Kat as their favorite. Most thought it was the sweetest, had a good chocolate flavor, and preferred its balance of wafer and chocolate over Kvikk Lunsj's.
While Kvikk Lunsj and the British Kit Kat were both highly rated, Hershey's Kit Kat was a giant fail. The major problem: The chocolate didn't really taste like chocolate. Tasters described its flavor as being oddly fruity, malty, not milk chocolaty or cocoa-y, or just plain confusing. On top of the subpar flavor, the texture was gritty. One taster did like it though, despite agreeing that it didn't taste much like chocolate compared to the other bars, because he grew up eating Hershey's and was used to the flavor.
If you like super creamy milk chocolate, it's Kvikk Lunsj all the way. Otherwise, you may prefer British Kit Kats. And unless you have no other choice, skip the Hershey's. My favorite is Kvikk Lunsj: creamy chocolate + nutty wafer + awesome packaging = win. Admittedly, I'm totally biased—I like Norwegian things, and I don't have any deep connection to Kit Kats, although I'm sure I've eaten plenty of them since my childhood (but never nine in one year).
If you've eaten Kvikk Lunsj and Kit Kat, which one do you prefer?
* There's a funny exchange about the importance of Kvikk Lunsj during Easter in this Easter candy taste test by a Norwegian website.
** Here's an amusing video of a Norwegian blind tasting a Kit Kat and Kvikk Lunsj. Of course, he can immediately tell which is which. "This last chocolate I've never tasted it before in my life. It's a brand new taste."
Kvikk Lunsj: Sugar, milk powder, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, wheat flour, vegetable fat, emulsifier (soya lecithin), maize starch, salt, raising agent (E500), flavoring
Hershey's Kit Kat (US): Sugar, wheat flour, nonfat milk, cocoa butter, chocolate, palm kernel oil, lactose (milk), milkfat. Contains 2% or less of: soy lecithin, PGPR (emulsifier), yeast, vanillin (artificial flavor), sodium bicarbonate
Nestlé Kit Kat (UK): Milk chocolate (sugar, dried whole milk, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, lactose and proteins from whey, whey powder, vegetable fat, emulsifier (soya lecithin), butterfat, flavoring), wheat flour, sugar, vegetable fat, cocoa mass, yeast, raising agent (sodium bicarbonate), salt, flavoring
Nutrients per 100 grams
|Kvikk Lunsj||Kit Kat (US)||Kit Kat (UK)|
|Calories||530 kcal||500 kcal||512 kcal|
|Protein||8.2 grams||7.1 grams||6.3 grams|
|Carbs||56 grams||64.3 grams||62.6 grams|
|Fat||30.5 grams||26.2 grams||25.9 grams|
Note: The Hershey's Kit Kat nutrition facts label the whole bar as one serving, while the Kvikk Lunsj labels one bar as about two servings.
Thanks to Kåre Sandvik for providing Norwegian-English translations.