Wartime Scarcity Created Nutella (Twice)

Wartime Scarcity Created Nutella (Twice)

Necessity might be the mother of invention, but apparently, she has a short memory. Plenty of products, from tampons to Twinkies, arose from shortages and other opportunities for wartime creativity, but Nutella might be the only one that was invented twice for the same reason.

A. Kniesel/Wiki Commons


First, in 1806, Napoleon started making decrees about the flow of goods from Britain, specifically into ports controlled by France, which was a lot of them. The idea was to punch the country in its financial dick, and it didn't work as well as he'd hoped -- Britain counterblockaded, leading to an entire War of 1812, it was a whole thing -- but it definitely succeeded in putting Italian chocolatiers in a real bind. The price of chocolate skyrocketed as a result of the blockade, but they had chocaholic Italians beating down their doors, so the chocolate kings of Piedmont started using hazelnuts, which grew in abundance right at home to pad out their chocolate spreads. It turns out those two things taste really good together, so gianduja, as it was called, was a reasonable hit in Italy.

It still needed improvement, though. When baker Pietro Ferrero showed up in Piedmont, gianduja was a thick paste sold as a solid block, and he was determined to make it, you know, better. Then World War II happened, and, once again, chocolate was scarce, not due to any trade restriction but rationing in general. One day, during Ferrero's gianduja experiments, he found a jar of cocoa butter in the back of his pantry, and he was like, "Well, let's throw this shit in and see what happens." What happened was a much more spreadable spread, and it also allowed him to reduce the percentage of cocoa even further. With a choice between chocolate-flavored butter and no chocolate at all, Europeans decidedly chose the former, and that's why we still spread our toast with mostly sugar and palm oil.

Top image: Chris Liverani/Unsplash

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