Nutella® is an Italian made hazelnut and chocolate spread for bread, or for use in desserts, which was created by Pietro Ferrero in the 1940s. Ferraro also formed Ferrero, Inc., which makes other well-known products like Rocher® chocolates and Tic Tacs®. At first, though, Nutella® was best known as an Italian spread, and then a European delicacy, and it originally had a different name.
First inspired by the World War II shortage of available chocolate, Ferraro sought to find a flavor that would mix well with chocolate. Hazelnuts, which were much more widely available, were a natural pairing and thus Ferrero came up with a spread called pasta gianduja that was sold in cubes like butter. The pasta in this sense meant “paste.”
This earliest versions of Nutella® differs from its present form. It wasn’t as “spreadable” as people hoped, though it was enjoyed. Ferrero reengineered the recipe, and began selling his product in jars under the name supercrema gianduja. It wasn’t until 1964 that the name was changed to Nutella®.
Ferraro manufactured Nutella® in the Piedmont section of Italy, and it became so popular especially to children that many stores offered, for a price, to smear slices of bread brought in by children with supercrema gianduja. Mass production introduced the hazelnut chocolate spread in many other parts of Europe, but many in the US weren’t familiar with it, unless they traveled abroad. The company did not start exportation of Nutella® to America until 1983, where it has gradually become a very popular spread, though early exportation mainly went to the Northeastern part of the US. Today if you buy the spread in the US, it usually isn’t imported from Italy. Instead it’s manufactured in New Jersey at a factory Ferraro had built in 1993.
The product could be called the Italian answer to peanut butter, and many find it more delicious than other nut spreads. It isn’t nearly as nutritious as peanut or almond butter because it contains extra ingredients, including sugar, skim milk, and peanut oil. A serving, about 2 tablespoons (37 grams) has only 2 grams of protein as compared to the 8 grams of protein in the same size serving of peanut butter. So though many love this treat, it’s a poor substitute if you’re trying to boost nutritional value of a meal. Many fans of Nutella® would say that’s hardly the point, and that you can add additional nutrition by using the product on whole grain breads.
Another common use of Nutella® is in a variety of desserts. On its own it can be an excellent spread in between layers of cake, or some people really enjoy it in crepes. You’ll find hundreds of recipes online for things like ice cream, fondue, cupcakes, waffles, brownies, muffins, and a host of others. You’ll find this spread in most grocery stores and in almost all specialty grocers where it is most often located near the peanut butter.