The Heavenly Hazelnut History of Nutella
Like avocado and quinoa, Nutella is one of those foods that didn’t exist when I was young, and somewhere along the line became a kitchen staple that people eat by the spoonful. And like most good things in life, this one started in Italy.
Nutella was born in 1946, fathered by Pietro Ferraro, a chocolatier in Piedmont. Originally called “pasta gianduja,” it was sold as a big, solid block of hazelnut and chocolate. Things got serious five years later, when Ferraro developed a new version: supercrema gianduja, which was creamy and sold in a jar. It was an Italian sensation. In 1964, Pietro’s son, Michele, set about to make his father’s food really famous. First up was supercrema gianduja, which the company renamed—you guessed it—Nutella. Europe was never the same.
(There must be something in the water at Piedmont, because that same stretch of northwestern Italy managed to give us Nutella, the finest Nebbiolo wines, and Moscato d’Asti. That’s all three food groups.)
Even if you’ve never heard of Ferrero (eponymously named for its founder), you’ve heard of its products, starting with my favorite: Ferrero Rocher candies, the round, soft-but-crunchy hazelnut and chocolate confection that annihilates one’s self-control, leaving entire boxes slain and reduced to battlefields littered with gold foil wrappers. (Ferrero uses 25% of the world’s hazelnuts.) If, somehow, you missed Ferrero Rocher, I bet you know another of the company’s famed creations: TicTac, which is the only candy in the world that you know the sound of.
But Nutella is next level: candy you can eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is devilishly brilliant in its simplicity and elegance. To wit: Do you like peanut butter? OK, but instead of peanuts, use hazelnuts and chocolate. I can’t even believe Nutella is legal. It would be like making celery that tastes like cupcakes.
Nutella experienced a cultural resurgence in the Instagram era when lithe, comely influencers began using it on all of their food. (If it’s good enough for Internet hardbodies, it’s good enough for you.) Not only is the luscious spread delectable, but it’s also gorgeous: a rich, nourishing umber that juxtaposes nicely with just about any food that it is spread, dolloped or poured on. Strawberries? Add a little Nutella. Acai bowl? Pour a rippling arc right across the top. Oatmeal and banana slices? Send that healthy breakfast into gustatory orbit with Nutella and a few coconut shavings for ornamentation.
Three hundred sixty-five thousand tons of Nutella are sold every year—that is one annual Empire State Building’s worth of spreadable chocolate-hazelnut goodness—which means the splendor of Nutella goes beyond the visual. Its application to food knows no bounds, and woe to the competing condiment in its way. Banana pancakes are amazing, but forego the syrup and apply thine Nutella. Waffles, Belgian or otherwise? Nutella, and top with fresh strawberries. French toast? Crepes? Scones and muffins? Nutella, Nutella, Nutella and—yes—Nutella. Not to overstate things, but Nutella is the stuff of miracles, and every spoonful you’ve not eaten is a little Nutella-shaped void in your life.
It is probably worth noting that you might be pronouncing Nutella incorrectly. It’s not nut-ella but rather new-tella. And if you are storing it in the refrigerator, you are making both Nutella and your life measurably worse. Nutella is safely stored at room temperature, even after being opened. (This also makes it easier to spread.) But don’t take my word for it: see for yourself! Nutella awaits, and with it, a better, brighter tomorrow.