Few snacks inspire quite as much passion as Nutella. The Italian-born hazelnut and chocolate paste is so precious, one designer even found a way to lock the jar against thieves. Here are a few things you might not know about the gooey spread.
1. NAPOLEON AND HITLER ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE WORLD'S NUTELLA ADDICTION.
Back in 1806, Napoleon tried to freeze out British commerce as a means to win the Napoleonic wars (and take over the world). The result was a disastrous continental blockade that caused the cost of chocolate to skyrocket and left Piedmontese chocolatiers in the lurch. Ever resourceful, chocolatiers in Turin started adding chopped hazelnuts to chocolate to stretch the supply as much as possible. The ensuing deliciousness was a fateful paste dubbed gianduja.
Over a century later, chocolate again became expensive and scarce due to rationing in Europe during World War II. An Italian pastry maker named Pietro Ferrero once again turned to the mighty hazelnut for salvation in 1946 and created Pasta Gianduja; three years later he altered the recipe to make the treat spreadable. In 1964, Pietro’s son Michele tweaked the recipe slightly and renamed it “Nutella.”
2. ITS PREDECESSOR WAS NAMED AFTER A CHARACTER FROM ITALIAN COMMEDIA DELL'ARTE.
The chocolate and hazelnut substance was named after Gianduja, a smiling Piedmontese peasant with a three-point hat who rides around town on a donkey clutching a duja—which in the Piedmontese dialect means “container.” The duja was said to hold wine ... but could have just as easily held a few pounds of that chocolatey hazelnut goodness, no? Gianduja masks are sold all over the Piedmont region of Italy, and his face was plastered all over early Nutella advertisements.
3. IT ORIGINALLY CAME IN THE FORM OF A LOAF.
Ferrero originally made his chocolate-hazelnut paste into a loaf designed to be sliced and placed on bread, kind of like a chocolatey version of American cheese slices.
4. IT SPREADS FAR AND WIDE.
Not only is it available for purchase and consumption in 160 countries, all of the Nutella sold in a year could be spread over more than 1000 soccer fields.
5. NUTELLA TAKES UP A LOT OF THE WORLD’S HAZELNUT SUPPLY.
Ferrero buys about a quarter of the world’s hazelnut supply every year. That’s more than 100,000 tons. Thanks to Nutella, hazelnuts have become trendy, driving up prices and encouraging farmers in regions that have never produced the nuts, like Chile and Australia, to give it a try. The company contends that two years’ worth of its hazelnut supply could fill the Roman Colosseum, and in 2014, Ferrero bought the world’s leading hazelnut supplier, the Otlan Group.
6. EACH JAR CONTAINS 52 HAZELNUTS.
7. IT’S BIG BUSINESS.
Michele Ferrero, who perfected his father Pietro’s recipe and created Nutella, became Italy’s richest man in 2008, with an estimated $11 billion in wealth. Ferrero died in February 2015 at the age of 89.
8. IT’S IN THE FAMILY.
9. ITS SISTER COMPANY MAY SOUND FAMILIAR.
In addition to chocolate brands Ferrero Rocher and Kinder, Ferrero also owns Tic Tac. The Italian company released the little orange and mint candies as “Refreshing Mints” in 1969—only a few years after the 1964 debut of Nutella.
10. NUTELLA-RELATED CRIMES ARE ON THE RISE.
In 2013, the chocolate-hazelnut spread made headlines in Germany, where thieves pulled off a $20,000 heist, stealing 5 metric tons of the sweet stuff from a parked truck. Several weeks earlier, Columbia University found itself at the center of “Nutella-gate,” an expose smearing the school for spending $6000 per week on the spread for one of its dining facilities, where students were allegedly snarfing 100 pounds of it per day.
11. IT’S NOT HEALTHY (SORRY) …
In 2012, the company that makes Nutella, the Ferrero Group, settled a class-action lawsuit over misleading advertising of the delicious spread. While the spread is about as nutritious as chocolate frosting (the first ingredient is sugar, followed by palm oil), it was often advertised as part of a nutritious breakfast, misleading some into thinking they could eat chocolate on toast and call it a healthy meal.
12. … BUT EATING IT ALL DAY CAN HELP YOU LOSE WEIGHT—IN THE WORST WAY.
In April 2015, a misguided Vice writer decided to go where surely no Nutella enthusiast had gone before—he vowed to eat only Nutella for a week. He weighed himself every day, and he actually did end up losing six pounds, but only because a diet consisting only of sugary palm oil flavored with hazelnuts and chocolate made him violently sick after just one day. He pressed on for the full week, though, and discovered that the spread makes a great addition to a cup of coffee.
13. WORLD NUTELLA DAY HAS BEEN A BIT OF A ROLLER-COASTER.
Two bloggers in Italy decided to take their love of Nutella to the next level in 2007, and created a worldwide day of celebration dedicated to the addictive substance. Thus, every year February 5 is a day for eating Nutella, sharing Nutella recipes and memories, and looking at photos of Nutella food-porn. In 2013, Nutella manufacturer Ferrero tried to shut down World Nutella Day before reconsidering. But as of 2015, at the request of Nutella Day founder Sara Rosso, Ferrero took over the holiday.
14. NUTELLA CAFES ARE A SORE SPOT FOR THE COMPANY.
In 2015, Ferrero slapped a rogue Nutella cafe scheduled to open in Brooklyn with a lawsuit. First, the restaurant was to be named the Nutelleria, but changed to Nuteria over legal concerns. Unfortunately, Ferrero still thought the Nutella-themed restaurant had too similar of a name to its own brand, and filed suit. The cafe closed in May 2015, as did, presumably, dreams of Miami and Los Angeles outposts. However, the New York location of the Italian market Eataly does have a Ferrero-approved Nutella bar.
15. NUTELLA HAS A SMEARED REPUTATION.
Nutella became so popular in Italy that Italian markets began to offer free “smears” of Nutella to any kid who showed up with a piece of bread. The phenomenon was referred to as “The Smearing,” and while it could potentially double as the name of a horror flick, was a highly successful marketing strategy. No wonder we're all addicted.
16. IT HAS CAUSED AN INTERNATIONAL POLITICAL SQUABBLE
In June 2015, the French environmental minister Ségolène Royal decried Nutella consumption on French television, on the grounds that it’s made with palm oil. The World Wide Fund for Nature notes that the palm oil trade often destroys the habitats of endangered species like rhinos and tigers, though Ferrero has committed to sustainable palm oil sourcing. The Italian environmental minister, Luca Galletti, however, was not pleased over this attack on Italy’s prized export, and demanded an apology, as did another Italian politician. Royal later tweeted in French (as translated by Twitter), “Thousand apologies for the controversy over #Nutella. Agree to highlight progress.”
17. AN ITALIAN POLITICIAN ONCE FORMED A PRO-NUTELLA FACTION.
In 2010, an Italian politician created a “Hands off Nutella” committee in opposition to a proposed European Union regulation that would require more readable nutritional labels on packaging. Food producers balked at the idea that they would have to effectively slap warning signs on their sugary, fatty products. However, Nutella later said it already followed these guidelines, and there was no threat to Italy’s de-facto national snack.
18. NEEDLESS TO SAY, ITS FANS ARE UNUSUALLY DEDICATED.
In celebration of Nutella’s 50th birthday in 2014, Ferrero launched nutellastories.com, a blog where people could share memories involving their favorite chocolatey snack. A fair amount of people wrote in (or submitted pictures of themselves eating Nutella), including people who bonded with their future spouse for the first time over Nutella, who have named their pets after Nutella, and who have incorporated Nutella into their family traditions. Not all of the passion for Nutella is so heartwarming: In September 2015, a Costco shopper punched another shopper in the face over samples of Nutella waffles.
19. SOME CONTEND THE AMERICAN VERSION IS NOT AS GOOD AS THE ORIGINAL.
North America’s Nutella is made in Canada, but you can also find the imported version from Italy in specialty shops (you can tell it’s from Italy by the glass jar). Despite the same list of ingredients, many Nutella aficionados claim that the stuff made in Ontario tastes sweeter and less hazelnutty than the European version. In 2014, a Washington Post correspondent dove into the debate with the help of a pastry chef, and came to the conclusion that the difference in taste could be the result of trans fats in the European version. Yum yum.
20. ITALY’S SO PROUD OF NUTELLA, IT PUT IT ON A STAMP.
To commemorate Nutella’s 50th anniversary in 2014, the Italian Postal Service created a Nutella-themed stamp, emblazoned with the brand’s signature jar of hazelnut goodness.
21. IT ACTUALLY IS THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS.
According to Guinness World Records, Nutella's 40th anniversary breakfast celebration in Germany in 2005 earned the title of “Largest Continental Breakfast.” A total of 27,854 people gathered in Gelsenkirchen to enjoy a meal that consisted of bread, orange juice, yogurt, and Nutella. No word on how they felt afterward.
22. THE COMPANY LOVES SPORTS.
Ferrero gifted members of the Italian national cycling team giant jars of Nutella personalized with their names just before the 2014 UCI Road World Championships. The company has also been a sponsor of its home country’s World Cup soccer team.
23. BUT THERE’S A NUTELLA CURSE.
In 2004, Nutella began using up-and-coming young players for Germany’s national soccer team in its advertisements. The problem? Once becoming the face of sweet hazelnutty goodness, these players tended to not live up to their potential as future all-stars. Many of them got booted from the team in what began to be called Nutella fluch, or the Nutella curse.
24. YOU CAN’T NAME YOUR CHILD AFTER IT…
At least in France. In January 2015, a French court banned a couple from naming their daughter Nutella, on the grounds that it would only “lead to teasing or disparaging thoughts.” (They went with Ella instead.) However, you can name your racehorse after it.
25. … BUT YOU CAN LOCK IT DOWN.
In response to a friend who bemoaned his children’s habit of filching his favorite snack, furniture designer Daniel Schobloch invented a lock to fit over the lid of a Nutella jar. The idea proved so popular, Schobloch began selling them on eBay.