Nutella is a chocolate spread produced by the Italian company, Ferrero. First introduced in April 1964, Nutella is now sold in more than 75 countries.
The Nutella spread was first created by Pietro Ferrero, the founder of the Ferrero company, in the backroom of a pastry shop in 1944. Born in 1898, Ferrero began his career as a pastry maker in Dogliani. He then moved to Turin, where he opened his own pastry shop. During World War Two, Ferrero was forced to move his pastry shop to Alba. Together with his wife Piera, Ferrero himself began experimenting with different recipes. As chocolate was not widely available then due to the war rationing of cocoa, Ferrero used hazelnuts instead. (Hazelnuts were in abundance in Italy's Piedmont region.) By the end of the war, Ferrero's efforts had paid off with the invention of a chocolate-like paste that mixed roasted hazelnuts with cocoa butter and vegetable oil.
The hazelnut paste was reasonably priced, allowing it to become an instant hit in confectionery-starved Italy. The increasing popularity of the hazelnut paste carried the Ferrero name throughout the confectionary market. Meanwhile, Ferrero continued to improve the paste recipe, which was kept in strict secrecy.
By 1964, the Nutella paste has evolved into its present state, using ingredients such as palm oil, sugar, skim milk and cocoa. In each 13 oz. jar, there are more than 50 hazelnuts. According to Ferrero company, Nutella contains no artificial colours or preservatives.
(1) The original Nutella started off as a block, rather than as a creamy paste.
The original version was called "pasta gianduja". In Italian, "pasta" meant paste, and "gianduja" was the name of a carnival character famous in the Piedmont region. The character was also used in the first advertisements for Nutella. Initially, Nutella was produced in blocks and wrapped in tin foil. Consumers would then slice bits and pieces off the Nutella block before spreading it on the bread. It was only later when Ferrero changed it to a creamy paste that is stored in the jar. The paste also makes its easier for consumers to spread on the bread.
In this area, Ferrero proved to be a pioneer, as he played an instrumental role in shaping the confectionery habits of the Italian consumer. Previously, while Italians had reserved cakes and pastries for special occasions, they were now consuming products such as the Nutella spread on a daily basis.
(2) Nutella used to be called "supercrema gianduja".
It was in 1954 when the hazelnut paste's name was changed from "supercreama gianduja" to Nutella. Firstly, this was due to an Italian law at the time which prohibited the use of superlatives in product names. Secondly, as the hazelnut paste became more and more popular throughout Italy and other parts of Europe, a German affiliate company proposed that the product's name should contain the word "nut" to reflect its hazelnut origin. After some brainstorming, the company finally decided to use the name "Nutella", with the "ella" giving it a soft ending.
(3) The recipe for Nutella varies from country to country.
The exact recipe for Nutella is a closely guarded secret. According to the product label, the main ingredients of Nutella are sugar and modified vegetable oils, followed far behind by hazelnut, cocoa and skimmed milk, comprising together at most 28% of the ingredients.
Nutella is marketed as "hazelnut cream" in many countries. It cannot be labeled as a chocolate cream under Italian law, as it does not meet minimum cocoa concentration criteria.
In Italy, Nutella contains less sugar than the French version. Some other examples of how the composition of Nutella varies from country to country are as follows.
- France/Germany/Australia: sugar, vegetable oil, hazelnuts (13%), fat-reduced cocoa powder (7.4%), skimmed milk powder, emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavouring (vanillin).
- Italy: sugar, vegetable oil, hazelnuts (13%), fat-reduced cocoa powder, skimmed milk powder (5%), whey powder, emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavouring.
- Spain/United Kingdom: sugar, vegetable oil, hazelnuts (13%), fat free cocoa (7.4%), skimmed milk powder (6.6%), whey powder, emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavoring.
- Poland: sugar, rapeseed oil, hazelnuts (13%), cocoa (7.4%), skimmed milk (5%), lactose, soya lecithin, flavouring (vanillin)
(4) There is a World Nutella Day.
Starting in 2007, 5th February has been designated by Nutella fans all over the world as "World Nutella Day". According to the website www.nutelladay.com, Nutella is more than just a "chocolaty hazelnut spread", but rather a way of life. The tradition was started by two Americans living in Italy, Sara Rosso and Michelle Fabio, as a testament of their love for the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Besides being a gathering point for Nutella fans, the website also contains many recipes for making Nutella delicacies. On that day, Nutella fans are encouraged to do anything with Nutella and take pictures of what they did with their beloved Nutella.
(5) Nutella has become an Italian cultural icon and has appeared in a number of films, songs and books.
In the 1984 Italian film Bianca, the protagonist (played by actor/director Nanni Moretti) has many idiosyncrasies, one of which was to wake up at night and start eating Nutella from a giant jar. The huge jar of Nutella was specially prepared for the film by Ferraro Company.
In 1995, Riccardo Cassini wrote a funny book entitled Nutella Nutellae, which touched on various works of art and their relationship to Nutella.
In June 2010, the European Parliament approved a draft measure requiring all processed foods to have fat, salt and sugar contents clearly labeled on their packaging. The purpose of the legislation was to fight obesity and give consumers more informed choices. However, this move sparked an uproar among Italians, who feared that the EU move might limit the sale of Nutella. An Italian government official launched a "Hands off Nutella" committee, which was supported by the governor of Piedmont (Nutella's home base). The Italian Minister for EU affairs also warned against the risk of "nutritionist fundamentalism", Meanwhile, Fererro Company noted that while the regulations did not amount to a ban on Nutella, such legislation could "influence even the habits and the most intimate aspects of one's personal sphere, like the genuine and healthy pleasures that are passed among generations".