Six weeks ago, an article I wrote on hazelnut spreads attracted such attention it inspired me to get in touch with the owner of a premium chocolate business manufacturing in Turin, Italy, and with its HQ in London, UK. Carlo Rotta is a new brand currently selling in some of the best gourmet stores in London, including Selfridges and Harrods, and also selling in Monaco.
Carlo Patetta Rotta, the company’s founder and CEO, is a Turin-born entrepreneur, who has been travelling extensively on the international circuit.
As already mentioned in the previous article, Piedmont and, particularly, its regional capital, Turin, holds a renowned place internationally in the art of chocolate production, especially in the hazelnut version, better known as gianduia chocolate. Those interested in knowing why the Italian Piedmont region boasts this peculiarity can read the history revealed on this flyer:
Following is a brief review of the complimentary products Carlo sent to me:
Each of these spreads contains a high amount of Piedmontese protected-geographical-indication (PGI) hazelnuts and the Gianduia recipe contains a remarkably high 40%.
Crema Cacao (Cocoa Spread). Ingredients: PGI Piedmont hazelnuts, sugar, cocoa powder (21%). Emulsifier: soya lecithin. Without added fats.
Crema Latte (Milk Spread). Ingredients: PGI Piedmont hazelnuts, sugar, milk powder (24.5%). Emulsifier: soya lecithin. Without added fats.
Crema Gianduia (Gianduia Spread). Ingredients: PGI Piedmont hazelnuts (40%), sugar, milk powder, cocoa powder. Emulsifier: soya lecithin. Without added fats.
As for the Nutella-like spreads I reviewed, having hazelnuts as the main ingredient is what we should expect from a product claiming the title Hazelnut spread. If such an expectation may be considered optional for hazelnut spreads, such as Nutella, marketed in a large retailer stores it becomes mandatory for a premium product sold in specialist gourmet shops. Just as it is for Crema Novi this expectation is fulfilled by Carlo Rotta’s spreads for which the hazelnut is always the first ingredient on the list.
On the other hand, the high percentage of Piedmontese hazelnut is reflected in the higher than average unit price: £59.00 per kg (£5.90 for a 100g jar at www.delicatezza.co.uk).
One important thing that differentiates Carlo Rotta’s spreads from most of the spreads on the market is the complete absence of any type of added fats or vegetable oils. This is definitely worth consideration as we compare the value of saturated fats between these spreads (4.5%, 6.5% and 5.9%) and Crema Novi (9.2%), which contains cocoa butter as added fat.
Cocoa Spread has a rich flavour of hazelnuts and cocoa and, in terms of texture and spreadability, is the thickest of the three. Its intense dark brown colour gives you the impression you are spreading chocolate on bread. Definitely my favourite!
Milk Spread is a surprise for fanatical dark chocolate lovers like me! In fact, at first, I was not looking forward to tasting it. I must admit that only later did I get enthusiastic about it as my second choice. This spread includes all the flavour of hazelnuts plus the mildness of milk, without any cocoa. A sought-after pale gold colour and a liquid consistency make this cream desirable to taste even as a one-off teaspoon treat.
Gianduia Spread is the most classical hazelnut and cocoa spread recipe. Hazelnuts, milk and cocoa are the ingredients that make its sensory profile suitable for the more conservative consumer who is not likely to experiment with more extreme tastes. Light creamy brown, with a texture somewhere between the first two spreads, personally I find this spread suitable even as a sophisticated filling for a tart or croissant.
Bitter chocolate manufactured with Ghana and Ecuador cocoa varieties:
Extra Bitter Chocolate with Red Chilli (cocoa minimum 56%). Ingredients: sugar, cocoa mass, cocoa butter, red chilli. Emulsifier: soya lecithin. Flavoring. Without added fats.
Extra Bitter Sugar-Free Chocolate (cocoa minimum 75%). Ingredients : cocoa mass, fructose, vanillin. Without added fats.
The 100g bars cost £5.00 each (www.delicatezza.co.uk).
The bars have a traditional rectangular shape split into five parts, each impressed with a letter, making up the word BLOCK. When you break the block, you can hear the typical snapping sound you would expect from a high quality chocolate, as already discussed on a previous post about dark chocolate. The surface is very smooth and bright.
Extra Bitter Chocolate with Red Chilli has an appetizing spicy flavour of red chilli. I had this treat before breakfast when my sense of taste is at its best, but I would suggest having this bar during the day as a snack or after a meal. Easily melting into the mouth.
Extra Bitter Sugar-Free Chocolate is the perfect match for dark chocolate lovers. Its high percentage of cocoa (75%) makes this bar a must-have treat during the day, perfect to have a piece of the block (20 g) per day as an indulgent dark chocolate treat. The taste is extra bitter. The fructose is a naturally occurring sugar in fruit and its sweetening power is 1.5-2 times greater than common sugar (sucrose). This characteristic allows this premium chocolate to contain an amount of sweetener lower than the most commercial-grade extra-dark chocolate. Being very concentrated in cocoa, the melt in the mouth sensation is slower than the previous bar tested. The aftertaste is pretty pleasant and persistent.
These include the most traditional Piedmont gianduia and revisited recipes using ingredients typical of other regions:
Hazelnut Cremino. Ingredients: sugar, PGI Piedmont hazelnuts (31%), cocoa butter, cocoa mass. Madagascar vanilla.
Hazelnut Gianduiotto. Ingredients: sugar, PGI Piedmont hazelnuts (30.5%), cocoa mass, cocoa butter. Emulsifier: soya lecithin. Madagascar vanilla.
Coffee Gianduiotto. Ingredients: sugar, PGI Piedmont hazelnuts, cocoa butter, cocoa mass, Arabica coffee (9%). Madagascar vanilla.
Pistachio Gianduiotto. Ingredients: sugar, Sicily pistachios (30%), cocoa butter, milk powder.
Boxes of Cremino (25 pieces) and assorted Gianduiotto chocolates (28 pieces) cost £26.00 each (www.delicatezza.co.uk).
Hazelnut Cremino and Hazelnut Gianduiotto are the typical hazelnut chocolates. The difference between them is that the first includes a central layer of hazelnut paste without cocoa. If you’ve ever visited Italy, it’s likely you are already acquainted with such flavours.
I personally found the two alternative recipes Coffee and Pistachio Gianduiotto more interesting. The former leaves a persistent, pleasant aftertaste of coffee. The latter has Sicilian Bronte pistachios in place of hazelnuts and is cocoa-free. What’s more appealing is its natural pale green colour.
Its taste is very mild and sought-after. If you love tasting contradictory flavours (e.g. dark and white chocolate) like me, then you won’t be disappointed by a pistachio gianduiotto.
Those interested in getting the whole catalogue of products can download it for free from this link:
After reviewing such a wide array of quality products, it becomes evident that with the rising level of competitiveness in today’s market anyone desiring to introduce a new brand faces a hard task. If passion and budget are key for every business, they alone can no longer be a guarantee of success. First you must study your niche market if you want to have success with your new brand!
In 2014, Carlo Rotta was awarded as one of the Best 100 UK Start-ups. To find out more about his new business I spoke to founder and CEO, Carlo Patetta Rotta, to ask him a few questions about how he set about establishing his brand in the market:
What intuition or itch drove you to start a premium chocolate company? How long are you on the market?
In the past, I travelled extensively, in Europe specifically, but also in the rest of the world. It always struck me that Turin, my native city, was famous abroad for Fiat cars and Juventus soccer team, whereas very few people knew that Turin invented ‘gianduia’ in 1806, and it had been producing quality chocolate for more than two centuries. Gianduia, the combination of cocoa and Piedmont hazelnut paste, is more than a ‘type of chocolate’; it is a product on its own. In Italy, we have been enjoying ‘gianduiotti’ and ‘cremini’ for a long time but abroad people barely know the products. On the basis of these considerations, in 2013 I created ‘Carlo Rotta’, a brand of premium chocolate from Turin. We started selling our products in London in September 2014 and, immediately after, in Monaco. We want to become an international brand and distribute in the most important cities.
Your array of products is entirely made in Italy. Why the current choice of selling abroad? How did you target your locations and how is Made in Italy perceived?
We are interested in selling mainly abroad because this is where we see the market. Of course, educating people about ‘gianduia’ is not immediate, it takes time and effort, but we see potential. Nowadays, London is probably the best location to launch a new brand. Here the consumption of premium chocolate is growing. Londoners are, in fact, eager to test new brands and products, and the average disposable income is high.
The fact that our products are 100% Made in Italy (the production is entirely Turin-based) is appreciated in such a way it helps attract both retail buyers’ and customers’ interest.
Tapping into the market and garnering a share of it is an ever-strenuous challenge nowadays, since the competition is very fierce for similar products under other brands. Understanding gourmet consumers’ behaviour is not always an easy task. Health-conscious and ingredient-aware buyers may choose one brand over another for a variety of reasons; among these are not only ‘volatile’ values and hedonistic indulgence but especially ingredients, nutritional information and place of origin.
I admit to having investigated the product characteristics of your top competitors. In particular, I noticed that your spreads, unlike the others in the same category, have no added fat (e.g. palm oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, butter, cocoa butter, etc.). To what extent this product strategy is having an effect on differentiating cocoa and hazelnut creams?
Over the last decade, people have become much more health-conscious, as you pointed out.
As a result, they are finding out that the so much loved Nutella, representing ‘the gianduia’ par excellence for the foreign consumer, is not so healthy after all. Nutella has, in fact, a rather high percentage of palm oil (more than 13%) and scientific studies have demonstrated that this ingredient does not have a good effect on our body. It’s too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids, which, if not properly counterbalanced by Omega-3s, can be harmful to our cardiovascular system. As a result, we thought it was important to provide the market with palm-oil-free products. After several tests, we created our spreads without using any amount of vegetable oil. The oiliness, necessary to make the product spreadable, comes directly from the Piedmont hazelnut which, besides being the tastier in the confectionery world, is the richest in oil. In this sense, I cannot think of a more genuine product!
Following the success of our gianduia spread, we also created a complete spread collection with six different flavours (gianduia, cacao, milk, coffee, almond, and pistachio). Also, all of them do not contain any vegetable oil.
Another aspect of your business that struck me is the fact that you revisit traditional hazelnut gianduiotto recipes adding some new flavours, such as coffee and pistachio. How is this being perceived by the market?
I have to admit that the strategy of adapting the traditional chocolates to the taste of the local market paid off. In fact, it’s on this basis that Harrods’ buyers selected our Gianduiotti. Since English people are particularly fond of coffee and pistachio, our Gianduiotti at Harrods’ chocolate department come in three different flavours: hazelnut only, coffee and pistachio!
We followed a similar strategy for our extra bitter chocolate bars collection on sale at Selfridges: the ‘absinthe’ flavour was created specifically for the UK market, and it is now the best-selling one!
Where can we find your products? Do you also sell online or, if not, are you going to do it?
In London, we are selling our Gianduiotti at Harrods while our extra bitter chocolate bars collection is on sale at Selfridges. For the complete list of stockists, please check our website at www.carlorotta.it.