The Storied History Of Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

Ingenuity is one characteristic that sets humans apart from all the other creatures walking the planet. This is especially true when it comes to the foods we eat. Put a roadblock in our way, and we will find a solution to the problem. Tell us that the ingredients for one of our favorite dishes are no longer available, and we will find a way to make it work in short order. As the old saying goes, "Necessity is the mother of invention."

As we learn from BBC, the necessities that have led to some of our most outstanding food developments have often come out of conflict. A tiny sampling of what we consider staples today that were born of a need would include foods like Twinkies, carrot cake, instant ramen, and our focus for this article, chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Believe it or not, we have Napoleon Bonaparte and his rather autocratic rule to thank for giving us this tasty treat. If you love Nutella and Ferrero Rocher, you owe The Little Corporal (via Geri Walton) a debt of gratitude. 

The birth of chocolate-hazelnut spread

While most of us may have grown up thinking of Switzerland as the land of chocolate, there was a time in the early 1800s when Turin, which was located in the Piedmont region that would later become Italy, was considered the chocolate capital of the continent (via The Best of Turin). That was before a famous short general decided he wanted to rule the world.

Napoleon Bonaparte and his army were on the march in this same period. As tensions grew between his expanding empire and England, he handed down a decree that banned all trade between the island nation and the areas under his control (vis Acit Group). Since the English controlled most of the world's cocoa supply at the time, this left the chocolatiers of Turin in a tight spot.

Scrambling to find a way to stay in business, they tried grinding the local hazelnuts into a fine powder and using it to expand their dwindling cocoa powder stores. This created a nutty spread they called Gianduja which is widely considered by historians to be the first chocolate hazelnut spread.

Post-WWII, an old idea revisited

As tensions eased, things more or less returned to normal, but as history often does, it repeated itself. This time, a couple of gentlemen named Mussolini and Hitler decided they wanted to carve up the world. This time the entire planet got involved, and for a time, cocoa was in short supply everywhere. For Italy, things didn't get much better after hostilities ended, and the chocolatiers of Turin once again found cocoa powder in short supply (vis Acit Group).

During this time, Pietro Ferrero developed a loaf of bread spread with chocolate cream wrapped in foil called pasta gianduja (via Huffington Post). This quickly became a hit, and Pietro established the Ferrero Spa Company. One of its first products was Giandujot, the foil-wrapped descendent of the wartime product (via Nutella). This was in 1946, and because of the popularity of the loaf, Pietro decided to make a more spreadable version, and in 1951, he introduced Giandujot SuperCrema. This product remained virtually unchanged until 1964 when the company came out with a new and improved line and called it Nutella.

From then till now, the chocolate-hazelnut spread has increased in popularity and is expected to do so for the foreseeable future (via Transparency Market Research).