Happy 50th Birthday, Dear, Sweet, Corner-cutting-enabling Nutella!
“Nutella ‘riots’: A decision to offer a 70% discount on big jars of Nutella sparked mayhem at Intermarché supermarkets across France last week, as customers brawled in the aisles to get hold of the cut-price spread”The Week, 3 Feb 2018
If you’re keen on chocolate, and on hazelnuts today is a day to truly celebrate. It was on 20 April 1964 that the first Nutella jar left the Ferrero factory, and it is a product which has enjoyed universal popularity ever since.
History of Nutella
Of course, like all good things, it was some time in the making, and like many good things it was inspired by necessity. Food shortages remained for some years after the end of the Second World War, and cocoa was hard to obtain. A pastry maker in northern Italy attempted to eke out his precious supply by mixing it with a sweet paste made with hazelnuts and solid enough to form a loaf shape so that it could be sliced and served with toast. He named his concoction Gianujot after a carnival character, and it was composed of about two-thirds hazelnuts and a fifth chocolate.
A few years later the pastry maker, whose name was Pietro Ferrero, decided to experiment with making his Gianujot creamier, and a dozen years later, his businessman son, Michele, against the backdrop of the excessive sixties, was able to reduce the proportion of hazelnuts, increase the amount of chocolate, repackage it into a jar, and, in a stroke of sheer marketing genius (on the same level as the creator of Patum Peperium) to relaunch the product under the name of Nutella – a combination of the English word ‘nut’ and, the manufacturers say, the Latin suffix ‘ella’ meaning ‘sweet’.*
The popularity of Nutella
Today Nutella’s success can be judged not just by its annual production of 365,000 tons, produced in eleven factories around the world (of which four are in Italy), supplying 150 countries, but also by the birthday celebrations which included a commemorative stamp issued in its honour (click here to have a look at it), and speeches given in its honour by Italy’s Minister of Economic Development describing the product as ‘a symbol of genial Italian enterprise’. About a quarter of the world supply of hazelnuts goes into making Nutella, much of it coming from Turkey – a frost there one year threatened to significantly reduce production.
Don’t buy your Nutella in Hungary
In 2017 an article appeared in the Romanian newspaper, Krónika, complaining that many Western brands were bucking the EU quality standards and presenting inferior products in ex-Soviet block countries which are being treated as ‘Europe’s garbage can’. In Poland Leibniz biscuits are made with palm oil, unlike the German original…and Nutella spread made in Hungary is less creamy than that made in Italy. The manufacturers argue that East Europeans have less money, but often these brands are not any cheaper to buy.
What is Nutella made of?
Nutella contains sugar, palm oil (which makes up 20% of the product- it prevents it liquefying at room temperature), hazelnuts, cocoa solids, skimmed milk, whey powder (to act as a binder and stabilise fat emulsions), lecithin (emulsifies and aids spreadability) and vanillin (gives depth to the sweetness). In the US Nutella also contains additional products made of soya. Just one tablespoon represents 100 calories, so, although a favourite indulgence of Julia Roberts, maybe it’s not for the figure-conscious.
Recipes with Nutella
For literally hundreds of recipes using Nutella go to the Nutella Day site (Nutella Day is February 5).
Or try the Saucy Dressing’s layered Nutella squidges…
or make a sweetmeat which is the lovechild between a Ferrero Rochas and Nutella.
Or mix in with home made ice cream
*in fact, as far as I can ascertain the Latin suffix ‘ella’ does NOT mean sweet. Rather, it’s a female diminutive form expressing ‘smallness, affection, pity, or contempt’. ‘Smallness’ as in panzanella (‘little bread salad’), and Barbarella (‘little Barbara).. and less encouragingly, contempt, as in genus names of bacteria eg ‘salmonella’.
“…But Salvini mixes incendiary rhetoric with cheery, gentler fare hinting at a softer, even vulnerable side. He shows himself on Twitter, eating Nutella on his bread in the morning, or relaxing with a bowl of pasta and a glass of Barolo wine.”The Week, July 2019