Little known facts about the Nutella empire

Nutella cake

You may have heard that Michele Ferrero, the man at the head of the family behind Nutella and Ferrero Rocher, died on Valentine's Day. Reporting on Ferrero's passing, The Telegraph provides 14 facts that you may not know about Ferrero and the Nutella empire he leaves behind.

We first learn that the company has always been family owned. It was started by Michele's parents who had a small cafe in Alba, a hilly town in northern Italy. That is where Pietro (Michele's father) "would tinker with new products for pastry shop to sell." Giovanni Ferrero, Michele's son and Pietro's grandson, is now at the helm of the company.

The incredibly successful Nutella empire had humble roots. Pietro got the idea for Nutella when he wanted to make a cheaper alternative to chocolate, which was very expensive and hard to come by during and after WWII. He combined hazelnuts, which were easily available locally, with a little cocoa to form a sliceable block called pasta gianduja. The brick was meant to be sliced and eaten with bread. The product was reformulated to be more easily spreadable, but the Nutella name itself is newer than the spread. Ferrero renamed the paste when it was introduced in the UK in 1964.

Hazelnut are still very important to the company. Ferrero is the world's largest consumer of hazelnuts, using a whopping 25 percent of the entire world supply, the bulk of which come from Turkey. Bad weather in 2014 drove up the cost of the nuts, but Ferrero has buffered itself from price spikes by purchasing a major producer of Turkish hazelnuts. 

Nutella is now more popular than Marmite, another product with a loyal (some might say fanatical) following. Nutella outsells its "saltier friend in the UK, selling one jar every 2.5 seconds worldwide." While sales of Marmite are sagging, Nutella increased its sales by nearly 20 percent in 2013. Find out more interesting tidbits in the full article.

Photo of Torta alla gianduia (Nutella cake) from How To Be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

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