Not many foods have inspired a cult following as rabid as Nutella‘s. Snackers across the planet are united in their love of the creamy chocolate, hazelnut spread. In fact, my life can be divided into two distinct phases—before and after I tasted Nutella for the first time.
I’ll never forget the way my middle school Italian teacher Signore Fiorelli unveiled a freshly baked, homemade loaf of Italian bread to a class of rowdy seventh graders. Nothing impressive at first glance, but then, like the greatest magic trick in the world, he topped it with a heretofore unknown spread, one that bridged the gap between hot fudge and peanut butter to become Italy’s most spectacular culinary export, Nutella. We were in awe as we gobbled it down in the classroom’s newfound quietude.
Soon after I became a Nutella evangelist. I was proselytizing about Nutella long before the phrase “brand ambassador” was coined. “Did you know you can have chocolate for breakfast?!” was the slogan that converted most of my friends. Though my parents weren’t having any of it; they’d make me wait until after school to actually eat this newfound delicacy.
But even so, it was as if I was turning people on to something unbelievable, or at least unheard of. Something sophisticated and exotic, or at least as sophisticated and exotic as you can seem to a 12-year-old who has no notions of multinational corporations. You see 20 years ago, Nutella was not nearly as prominent on grocery shelves or as heavily marketed as it is now. In today’s world, you can’t go one aisle into the supermarket without seeing those ubiquitous minions plastered on the packaging. In the past five years alone, Nutella sales have skyrocketed by 39 percent. But back then, the magical spread served as potent social currency.
My love affair continued in the decades that ensued. Through the years it remained a staple in my college dorm room, wedged between bags of ketchup-flavored potato chips and pumpkin bread from the local farmer’s market. And presently, the new solo-portion containers with the pretzel sticks on the side remain a godsend on stressful work days. In other words, few foods have served as a source of comfort and stability in a world that is often anything but comforting or stable. Which is why my world, as well as millions of others’, was rocked upon hearing news of a recent recipe change to the beloved spread.
The new recipe adjusts levels of milk and sugar, two pivotal ingredients in the cream. The new recipe has 8.7 percent powdered skim milk, instead of 7.5 percent. It also contains 56.3 percent sugar, instead of the previous 55.9 percent. Consumers worry this may lead to a more watered-down texture and come at the expense of cacao. In a statement, Ferrero, the Italian company behind Nutella, claims that despite the changes, “the quality[…]and all other aspects of Nutella remain the same.” But it’s easy to be skeptical. New recipe rollouts are bumpy at best, or debacles of new Coke proportions at worst.
The alteration also seems unnecessary seeing as how Nutella was an alteration to begin with. Its humble and ironic origins arose as a means to make chocolate paste during World War II when limited chocolate was available (hazelnuts to the rescue!). But with changes on the way expect the outrage to continue (as if we need anything else to protest in 2017). Nothing this perfect can stay.
Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.