Nutella: An Origin Story

There are a few foods in this world that inspire passion and excitement in consumers.  Foods that ignite a fire within people and bring them out in droves.  Friendships have been won and lost over differing opinions of said food.  Companies and restaurants scramble to create products and dishes that contain this food because they know that the inclusion or exclusion of it could be the difference between skyrocketing sales or falling into culinary irrelevance.

While there are a number of foods that fall into this category (bacon, we’re looking at you!) today, of course, we are talking about the beloved Nutella.  

For those of you who are unaware, today is World Nutella Day, so naturally we have decided to delve into the world-famous spread’s past and find out just how it won the hearts of citizens across the globe.

People are passionate about Nutella. According to the Daily Mail, 365 000 tonnes of Nutella was consumed across 160 countries last year.  You know what else weighs 365 000 tonnes?  The Empire State Building.  This is not a joke- you can look it up.

I dare you to walk into a crowded room and just shout the word “Nutella!” and see what kind of reaction you get.  It may look something like this:

nutella

A jar of Nutella is sold every 2.5 seconds across the globe, and the Ferrero company produces enough of the spread every year that could be smeared around the world 4 times over!

To discover the origins of the chocolaty spread, we have to take you back to a dark time.  A time when chocolate could not be found at every grocery store checkout line or piled high in bulk bins.

The year was 1946.

pietro-ferrero

Following World War II, there was a shortage of cocoa and cocoa-making supplies.  This prompted one pastry chef from Piedmont, Italy to get creative.  This ingenious man was Pietro Ferrero.  The idea?  Mix hazelnuts and sugar with a small amount of the precious cocoa to extend the use of his chocolate and bring the price down to a sixth of the cost of pure cocoa.  This mixture was shaped into a loaf to be sliced and served on bread, particularly to make sandwiches for children. (When did chocolate sandwiches become an unacceptable school lunch is what we want to know…) 

gianduja-man

 

This little loaf was known as “pasta gianduja”.  Pasta, in this context, actually means “paste” and gianduja was the name of a popular carnival character at the time.  This mildly-terrifying character appeared in the first advertisements of Ferrero’s invention.

 

 

That same year The Ferrero company was founded and pasta gianduja began to grow in popularity.

It wasn’t until 5 years later in 1951 that Pietro Ferrero altered his recipe to be made into a paste and sold in jars, making it easier to spread on a slice of bread.  This became known as “supercrema gianduja”.  

supercrema

Fast forward to 1964 when Pietro’s son, Michele, improved the recipe with cocoa cream and changed the name to Nutella.  

The popularity of the spread began to grow rapidly for two reasons:

  1. Gianduja was six times less expensive than chocolate, which meant you didn’t have to be the wealthy elite to enjoy it, and enjoy it they did!
  2. Italian food stores began a service called “smearing”, which basically meant that any kid with a slice of bread could come in to the store and get a free smear of Nutella. Isn’t that the life…

 

News of the chocolaty concoction spread quickly and began appearing on shelves in Germany in 1965 and France in 1966.  Nutella essentially became the peanut butter of Europe.  While parents in Canada and the U.S. were slapping pb&j on bread for their kids’ lunches, European parents were sending their kids to school with Nutella.

In fact, Nutella arrived in Australia before it made it’s way to North America.  The Aussies started eating the stuff in 1978, but it didn’t appear on grocery store shelves in the U.S. until 1983!

Despite being a little late to the party, we North Americans have more than made up for lost time, and now you can find a Nutella-fied version of every treat you can think of.  Heck, people dress up as Nutella for Halloween!  

nutella-costume

You know that saying, “every cloud has a silver lining”?  Nutella is the perfect example of this- if it hadn’t been for post-WWII chocolate rations, Pietro Ferrero may never have come up with his clever solution and we wouldn’t be celebrating World Nutella Day today.  So grab your spoons and remember – when life gives you chocolate rations…make Nutella!

P.S. – In honour of World Nutella Day, we decided to try our hand at making our own Nutella.  Check out the video:

 

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