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Spread It Around: Five Things to Know about Nutella and Rivals

Spread It Around: Five Things to Know about Nutella and Rivals

Wednesday, 27 October, 2021 - 08:15

Are you Nutella or Nocciolata? With or without palm oil in your spread? More chocolate, more hazelnut or even peanut?

People have fought to buy their favorite spread cheaply, while in Turkey hazelnut farmers complain of exploitation and meagre pay.

Here are five things to know about spreads.

- Exploitation and ethics -Farmers in leading hazelnut exporter Turkey accuse Italy's Ferrero confectionary, which churns out Nutella, of abusing its near monopoly to force down prices.

Back in April 2019, the New York Times revealed harsh labor conditions for Syrian refugees who could barely survive on their pay from harvesting hazelnuts. Six months later the BBC ran a story showing Kurdish children picking hazelnuts.

Ferrero, which purchases about a third of Turkey's production, mainly through intermediaries, riposted that it did not use produce "made with unethical practices".

The group also cited in defense its training program for farmers.

By last year, Ferrero said it could trace the origin of 44 percent of its Turkish hazelnuts and hoped to reach 100 percent in 2023 despite the pandemic.

- What about palm oil? -European health authorities are not impressed by the nutritional value of Nutella.

It's more than 50 percent sugar, 30 percent fat -- mostly palm oil -- 13 percent hazelnuts and just 10 percent chocolate.

The palm oil industry is also accused of deforestation. In 2015, then French environment minister Segolene Royal had to apologize after angering Ferrero with a call to stop eating Nutella to protect the forests.

The group has boasted for several years about topping the World Wildlife Fund's palm oil buyer's scorecard for a responsible industry.

Ferrero alone uses nearly 200,000 tons of palm oil annually, accounting for 0.3 percent of global production.

- Yes, there is a World Nutella Day -World Nutella Day falls on February 5 and the brand still accounts for more than 50 percent of world sales for chocolate spreads, says Euromonitor International.

In January 2018, when customers fought to get their hands on cut-price jars of Nutella in French supermarkets, the story made world headlines.

Intermarche ended up paying 375,00 euros ($435,000 at current exchange rates) in fines for the loss-leader promotion.

Giovanni Ferrero, who inherited the empire that bears his surname, sits at 40th place on Forbes' list of the world's richest people, with a fortune of more than $35 billion.

The Ferrero group reported turnover of $15 billion last year, but does not reveal how much of that comes from chocolate spreads.

- Competitors galore -Milka, Nestle, Barilla, Banania, Nocciolata, Bonne Maman... a multitude of players try to compete with Nutella for a share of the growing market for spreads.

New products come out every year around the globe and have slightly eaten into Ferrero's dominance, Euromonitor International and sector analysts say.

Such competitors count on a variety of recipes from vegan or gluten and palm oil free, but often charge a higher price.

And sales of organic products have climbed every year recently.

- Peanuts rule? -The world consumes more than 300,000 tons of Nutella a year -- a figure that is often, if bizarrely, compared to the similar weight of New York's Empire State Building.

But that pales in comparison to another stateside spread rival.

The US uses more than 630,000 tons of peanut butter a year, according to the American Peanut Council -- so it seems hazelnuts are not about to replace peanuts in American spreads at least.

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