Nutella itself is an interesting story since it, like many other foodstuffs in the history of man, is the product of a war: World War II. It was an Italian businessman by the name of Petro Fererro who first conceived the idea of a chocolate you could eat in sandwich form. The trouble was it was wartime. The Axis powers were being squeezed by the Allies, and chocolate was scarce. To stretch his limited supply, Fererro created a thick paste of chocolate and ground hazelnuts, which were common to the Piedmont region where he lived. He dubbed his creation “Pasta Gianduja” after a Piedmontese carnival character.
The “pasta” was dryer than the product we know now, sold in foil-wrapped loaves that could be sliced and layered on bread. But when mothers complainined that their children were simply wolfing down the “pasta” and pitching the bread, he went over to a more spreadable product. This paste-in-a-jar was unveiled in 1951 under the name “Supercrema”. Needless to say, it took off. In part because it tasted good, in part because it was less than a fifth the price of bar chocolate. That made it affordable to just about everyone, even very poor children who, if their family couldn’t afford a jar of the stuff, could bring their own slice of bread down to the corner store for a “smear”.
By 1964 the business was going gangbusters and Fererro decided the product was due for a makeover. He changed the name to “Nutella” and the rest, as they say, is history. Interestingly, Nutella didn’t show up in the States until 1983, just a few years before the Great Continental Chocolate Pigout that I described in the previous post. Nowadays of course you can find it in just about any specialty shop, but then it was still something of a rarity. Which I guess partly explains my sister’s crazed behavior. Partly.