I’ve always thought of Nutella as an indulgence, something I buy when I want to add a touch of decadence to what I’m eating. And despite the company’s attempts to market their spread as a health food (which resulted in a false advertising lawsuit), Nutella falls under the “occasional treat” category for most consumers. As it turns out, Nutella’s very existence is rooted in this idea of a small luxury. I recently read a BBC article that explained the company’s “origin story,” as we call it in marketing. According to the article, Nutella’s inventor came up with the idea for the hazelnut spread in the years after WW2, when a lot of people couldn’t afford to buy real chocolate. The story goes that founder Pietro Ferrero became obsessed with creating a chocolate treat for the masses. First he produced a chocolate hazelnut loaf, which had to be cut with a knife. In time he invented a recipe for Supercrema, a spreadable form, and the roots of Nutella as we know and love it today.
Supercrema helped reinvent how the masses interacted with chocolate. As the BBC article says, “spreadability meant that a small amount went a long way.” Meaning, the spreadable format more or less diluted the cost of the ingredients, and made Supercrema much more affordable for the masses. The spread format also changed the confection’s perception from a treat or dessert into any “anytime” thing. Suddenly you could put a dab on bread, have just a spoonful, and indulge whenever you wanted. Supercrema helped shift people’s ideas of when it was acceptable or allowable to eat chocolate. It became a permissible indulgence rather than a twice-a-year treat. It was never exactly a “necessity,” but it was an affordable luxury, a pleasure you could have without feeling guilty about spending too much money.
Over time, Supercrema became Nutella. Though Nutella has long been popular around the world, it’s somehow only become really popular in the U.S. in recent years. But that popularity has exploded, to the point that the Eataly Italian food markets in Chicago and NYC now feature Nutella bars. In fact, Nutella has become so popular that it’s spurred a lot of copycats, from Hershey’s to boutique brands. That’s good news for consumers, as product choice in a category like groceries usually means accessible price points and lots of promotions. But it’s really not so great for Nutella and its market share! (Yes, these are the things I think about while grocery shopping. Doesn’t it make you want to go with me?)
While I wasn’t always a huge fan of Nutella, these days I’m a card-carrying member of the Nutella fan club. So in honor of Nutella’s birthday, why don’t we all treat ourselves to jars of the chocolatey delight?
If you don’t want to end up eating the entire jar with a spoon, here’s a few ways to work it into baked goods:
The most recent Nutella-based recipe I made:
What I most want to make next (it’s a tie!):