Who has never tasted nutella?
At breakfast or for an afternoon snack, spread on bread and pancakes, filling a fragrant croissant, or even consumed alone, this hazelnut cream par excellence, the maker of which is Italian, has gotten to be very popular all over the world. The latest news is that Nutella is now facing legitimate rivals, at least in Italy, due to consumers’ increasing attention to and demands of the products they put in their carts.
At the supermarket about ten days ago, I photographed a jar of Nutella along with two other hazelnut creams that I recently tasted and found to be excellent alternatives. Here’s why…
In the evaluation of each product, I correlated its ingredients list to the unit price (per kg).
On this site you can check the list of ingredients and nutritional information organized according to the specific regulations of a given country. However, the Italian page does not present the ingredients list, so I thought it useful to attach the picture I took of the label, on which is stated:
Sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts (13%), fat-reduced cocoa (7.4%), skim milk powder (6.6%), whey powder. Emulsifiers: soy lecithin. Vanillin.
The UK, Canada and the United States have the following pages dedicated to Nutella, where you can easily read the list of ingredients:
As can be seen from the above links, the composition of the ingredients is the same among the various countries, including my evidence of those here in Italy. It is reasonable to emphasize this because sometimes a company, to better penetrate a market in a given country, changes the formulation of the product itself, adapting it to the local preferences and culture.
Unit price for Nutella: € 7.95 per kg
The second hazelnut cream examined is considered a “niche” product. It is called Nocciolata Rigoni di Asiago and is manufactured by a Venetian company that specializes in a limited line of products, such as honeys, jams and spreads. These products, moreover, contain only ingredients procured from organic farming, a production method that, by European standards, does not permit the use of synthetic chemicals (fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides) nor genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
The following are the ingredients of the cream:
Brown sugar, hazelnut paste (16%), sunflower oil, skimmed milk powder, cocoa (6.5%), cocoa butter, sunflower lecithin, vanilla extract.
We can see that, compared to Nutella, this cream doesn’t include the notorious palm oil. Rather, it lists only sunflower oil, which, as already mentioned in a previous article, is certainly a healthier fat than palm oil. Furthermore, whereas Nutella lists palm oil as its second ingredient, this cream places sunflower oil in the third position, after the hazelnut paste. Perhaps Ferrero should rebrand Nutella as sugar-and-palm-oil, rather than hazelnut, cream!
Nevertheless, while Nutella can be modestly credited for the amount of cocoa it incorporates, which is slightly higher than skim milk, in the Nocciolata Rigoni this is the inverse. At any rate, when considering the oils used, comparisons as to which is the healthier product are quite obvious.
Unit price for Nocciolata Rigoni: € 11.07 per kg
Finally, the third cream: Crema Novi is a trademark owned by the Elah Dufour Group, operates in the confectionery sector, and like Ferrero is based in Piedmont, a region of northern Italy known for its cutting-edge food industry chocolate.
In this case, the ingredients list reveals that we have a cream with a hazelnuts content that is clearly superior to the other two, which also justifies its higher price (more than double Nutella’s):
Hazelnuts (45%), sugar, fat-reduced cocoa (9%), skim milk powder, cocoa butter. Emulsifier: soya lecithin. Natural extract from vanilla beans.
The taste is very good, although I personally found the spreadability slightly lower than the other creams, a feature likely caused by the higher viscosity conferred by the considerable amount of hazelnuts in the formulation (almost half of the product) and the absence of fats other than cocoa butter. In addition, the amount of cocoa is slightly greater than the other two creams and is even greater than the amount of skimmed milk powder in the product.
In contrast to Nocciolata Rigoni, however, the product is not made from organically farmed ingredients.
Unit price for Crema Novi: € 17.25 per kg
(As a side note, it might be fair to mention that hazelnuts themselves are not inexpensive, costing roughly €5-6/kg)
For those interested in viewing the nutritional facts labels of the three products:
NOCCIOLATA RIGONI DI ASIAGO
That said, I believe that a nutritional fact label does not tell everything about the quality of a product, as it remains necessary to “decode” those mysterious—for those who do not learn to read them—terms of the ingredients list.
In terms of which product is best (and bearing in mind individual economic considerations and health-conscious preferences), to each his own. Personally, and with these considerations still in mind, I find that both the second and the third product demonstrate palpable advantages over Nutella, besides offering an optimal compromise in terms of cost to quality tradeoff.
As with all the “mature” products on the market—Nutella has been around for more than 50 years—sometimes relying solely on the brand and its promotion is no longer enough to remain popular. I think that a company ought not to underrate the value of reinforcing the message of its seriousness and responsibility in the market, for example by innovating the formulation of the product based on studies of its competitors’ strategies. In doing so, a company would show it is not basing its marketing strategies exclusively on the positive profit figures from global sales, but rather that it also has an interest in the increasingly educated consumers’ concerns.