Let’s just come out and say it: Nutella is certainly not supposed to be a balanced breakfast food. But we’re totally okay with that, because the jar of whipped cocoa and hazelnut is seriously obsession-worthy. Despite its humble origins, the now iconic European nut-butter has spawned its own national U.S. holiday, Pinterest hair dye tutorials and even dedicated cafés, because why not. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid falling under its spell, read on for its fascinating and rich history. However, if you happen to be in the minority that doesn’t enjoy Nutella, congrats. You’ve made it this far without being Napoleon-style exiled (but even he probably would have loved the stuff).
Ironically, Nutella never set out to be a hazelnut spread, let alone a bonafide food craze. In the wake of WWII, Europe struggled financially. To the point that even basics like milk and butter were considered luxurious. So, chocolate was certainly not the first thing on many families’ shopping lists, as it was very expensive as well as hard to find. That’s where Italian confectioner Pietro Ferrero comes in. He started experimenting with hazelnuts as a way to stretch the cocoa in a delicacy he was already producing, and thus Nutella was born.
“While its nutritional value has been exaggerated, the magnitude of its popularity has not.”
The pantry staple’s popularity quickly reached astonishing heights in Europe, and before long, the Nutella love spread to the U.S. But how did this nut butter manage to reach the same prominence as its OG cousin, peanut butter? We’ll have to look at Nutella’s clever marketing and branding, which has presented the spread as a wholesome food because of its main ingredient, hazelnuts– despite its 57g of sugar label. While its nutritional value has been exaggerated, the magnitude of its popularity has not.
50 years later, Nutella is now part of an $11 billion confectionary empire and the number one user of hazelnuts in the world, buying a quarter of the world’s supply. That’s nuts – literally
As a result, the high demand for the beloved (definitely-should-not-be-for) breakfast spread has increased the global price for hazelnuts. Most of the world’s hazelnut supply comes from a small strip of land along the Black Sea in Turkey, making them even more difficult to acquire. Ironically, the nut once used to replace high-priced, scarce cocoa post-WWII is now becoming limited and expensive, bringing the creamy confection’s journey full circle
“So, only science can save us now.”
However, hazelnut farms have been popping up in the U.S., creating more supply for Nutella addicts’ demand, because capitalism. Furthermore, plant biologists in New Jersey are trying to produce a disease-resistant hazelnut variety, to protect the world from a Nutella shortage. So, only science can save us now.
Next time you’re practicing the infamous spoon-jar-mouth method, you can remember the little-known origin story with each spoonful– because home is where the Nutella is.
Try our Nutella-Churro French Toast recipe for a treat yo’ self breakfast (or dinner – we won’t judge!)