‘Mr Nutella’ – Michele Ferrero described by Forbes as Italy’s richest man, and owner of the chocolate and confectionery empire died recently at the ripe old age of 89. He was known as a quiet, reserved man who stayed well out of the limelight. Who would have thought mixing hazelnuts with chocolate into the Nutella spread would have made him a billionaire!
Every Italian I have met has grown up on Nutella, unlike many Aussies, like me, who grew up on Vegemite. I always have a jar or tube of that in the cupboard and have stifled a giggle seeing my Italian friends dive in on a slice of bread with Vegemite thinking it must be the dark chocolate version of Nutella!? Boy are they shocked after the first mouthful when that strong tasty yeast extract hits the palate. After one of these tastings a friend commented “you must have had a deprived childhood”!
Delving into Mr Nutella’s company I discovered that besides the famous Nutella first produced in 1964, Ferrero also produces Ferrero Rocher chocolates, Kinder surprise eggs, (that the kids are addicted to here both for the chocolate and the wacky surprise hidden inside) Tic Tacs and more! No wonder the man is a billionaire!
The Company was started in 1946 in a humble pastry shop in Alba, Piedmont by his parents, Pietro and Piera. That later turned into a small chocolate factory and now Ferrero boasts factories worldwide and yet it is still run by the family, Michele’s son, Giovanni.
Alba is full of hazelnut trees, alongside vineyards producing some of Italy’s prized reds – Barolo and Barbaresco. I had never seen a hazelnut tree till I toured through the area last year with my brother and sister-in- law and we indulged in many great wines and local chocolate/hazelnut spreads.
Exploring the Company’s website further I saw their Mission statement is ” Work, Create, Give” and if you read their social programs there is an impressive list of educational, and recreational programs for children, employees and retirees. An encouraging statement on their commitment to respect the environment and a glocal approach – a company “which focuses on international development, without losing sight of its relationship with local communities.” Let’s hope it’s all true.
The website also talks of its focus on nutritional values although I am sure I am not alone in thinking that Nutella is definitely addictive…once you start on the jar on a cold winter’s night there is no telling when you’ll finish!
It has some curious facts too – a line of Ferrero Rocher chocolates produced in 6.2 days would be as long as the Great Wall of China! – hazelnuts used in 2 years could fill a basket the size of the Colosseum!
Can you imagine that?
After all this talk of Nutella I think I’ll just go get that jar!