Tag Archives: Italy

Chocolate Representation and Marketing in Boston’s Italian Market, Eataly

Upon entering Boston’s Italian market, Eataly, one can immediately feel the pervading sense of luxury. Starting with quality wines, cheeses, meats, and small bites, customers begin their mini Italian journey. After passing through sections of delicious selections of appetizer-like foods, customers move through the center of the marketplace where restaurants and food stands create a complete sensory experience analogous to the main meal in a gustatory journey. Throughout the entire experience, the Italian market presents itself in a very raw and natural form, turning away from luxury in the form of material wealth and focusing the customer on what people commonly associate with Italy to be a certain luxury of life. In fact, although one could easily see how expensive all of the products were in the market, the wealth required to lead this sort of “Italian” lifestyle is hidden behind the fact that it does not present many directly obvious or glaring forms of material luxury. However, the one place where it failed with this consistency in the representation of Italian luxury was, surprisingly, in the chocolate section.

The first important aspect to note about the section of the market that sold chocolate was that it came at the very end. A customer would have to travel through the rest of the store in order to reach this final area. This works for Eataly in the sense that it is logical to structure the market in the same way that a typical meal is structured. Chocolate and desserts come at the very end, clearly serving as an indulgence to finish off a gustatory experience in a perfect way. It is one last peek into paradise.

Throughout the journey up to this point, the experience and the luxurious ambiance has stayed fairly consistent. The customer is reminded of a simple, farmer’s market style of Italian life, and the luxury is communicated through quality of life rather than quality of material ownership. This is a crucial strategy that appeals widely to consumers given the new, developing concept of luxury, as Peter McNeil and Giorgio Riello describe in Luxury: a rich history

“… ‘luxury is today more a condition than an object’. In other words, luxury is not just about acquiring an object, but is rather a way of living, of thinking, and of aspiring. Luxury aims to recover its uniqueness … by providing an experience that is unique in the acquisition and enjoyment of such goods … that might not necessarily be exceptional per se,” (McNeil and Riello 235). 

However, there is a sudden shift from that environment when approaching the chocolate section. In fact, the brands and types of chocolate displayed convey two different messages to the customer, both of which distinguish themselves from the marketplace as a whole. 

The first of the two atmospheres is one of material luxury, appealing to the artisanal quality of a product. These chocolates exhibited common packaging themes of shiny gold and silver labels, dark backgrounds, and text like “premium chocolate”, “product of Italy”, or “classic”. Many included obscure and unreadable Italian words in an attempt to appeal to consumers through use of smooth, sophisticated sounding words. Additionally, on signs that describe the brands, the customer can read various quotes that generally embody this appeal to Italian artisanry:

“Since 1826, Caffarel has been making chocolate in the traditional Piemontese way.”

“Baratti & Milano is part of the history and tradition of Italian confectionery.”

“Novi’s passion for chocolate stems from the ancient confectionery traditions of Piemonte.”

An example of chocolate packaging with gold labeling.
Baratti & Milano chocolates, whose labeling and packaging uses themes of gold.

These bars and products were almost entirely pure dark chocolate products and the most commonly added ingredients (if any) were “Italian” additions like whole hazelnuts, coffee, or lemon. Price points were incredibly high, with products costing, for example, $55/lb, $44/lb, $36/lb, or $77/lb, to name a few.

An important aspect to note is that these brands that appealed to the artisanal and “pure Italian” quality of chocolates often failed to connect their story to the rest of the chocolate supply chain. As elaborated upon by McNeil and Riello: “A great deal of the national appeal of brands is created by cultural associations cemented through the clever use of advertising at a global level. Globalization, however, creates at the same time a sense of brand displacement. The ‘country of production’ of a product is often different from the ‘country of origin’ of the brand …, ” (McNeil and Riello 283). These companies are clearly seeking to appeal to a national identity in advertising their products, but consequently end up obscuring the entire supply chain and ignoring the regions and people that play a crucial role in the farming of cacao.

Unsurprisingly, these brands thus did not often cite any sort of certification or effort to integrate their chocolate production story with the rest of the supply chain. The focus was restricted to chocolate’s journey in Italy. This seems to be a characteristic that plagues smaller and more specialized chocolate producers in general: 

“In the small, specialty chocolate maker category, there is some transparent trade, but in general the information about amount of specialty cacao purchased and price paid for that cacao provided by individual companies is minimal, and the burden thus falls to producers, consumers, or researchers to seek it out for themselves, an often impossible task,” (Martin). 

The entire journey of cacao before reaching the hands of Italian chocolate manufacturers is nonexistent. This phenomenon is most often characteristic of nations that have been able to establish an international chocolate reputation. As Kristy Leissle states in Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate:

“… somewhere along the way, the place of manufacturebecame more important to appreciating chocolate than the place of origin of the beans. ‘Belgian chocolate’ has more purchase than ‘Ghanaian cocoa,’ because chocolate eaters have become accustomed to the particular styles preferred by a handful of national palates…,” (Leissle 22).

So, clearly, while the rest of the market exudes a raw form of lifestyle luxury, these bars communicate a very different message. They create an association with material wealth – that of an elite and distinguishing sense. 

However, this is not the only theme established in the chocolate market in Eataly. There exists another subset of chocolates that seem almost completely removed from the Italian artisanal quality of chocolate. These brands instead focus all of their energy in promoting an exotic image. The packaging is smaller, squarer, and rarely employs dark, luxurious colors. Packages are white or colorful, made with plastic or thin cardboard. They do not frequently employ gold text or luxurious images. Yet, almost all of the chocolate sold remained dark, with few products dipping below 60% dark chocolate.

These brands add various unique ingredients like Sichuan pepper, matcha, passionfruit, goji berries, ginseng, and more into their products. The choice of ingredient addition tends to go along with what is commonly associated with Western perception of health or medicine in foreign (particularly Eastern) countries. Western culture has adopted exactly these ingredients (tropical fruits, Asian spices, and more) as a part of a new, hipster health fad. The fact that these “healthy” ingredients were chosen to be added to chocolate makes it clear that these brands are trying to appeal to chocolate’s exotic, fantastical quality: that is has “magical” health benefits. Other brands on the shelves made an even more obvious appeal to this common conception of chocolate, associating specific bars with arbitrary qualities such as “health”, “beauty”, or “leisure”.

T’a Milano chocolates, with various exotic flavors added.
Giraudi chocolates with added ingredients such as matcha and goji berries.
Sabadìchocolates that are associated with qualities such as health and leisure.

This is an interesting characteristic of these brands, since they seem to advertise more strongly the idea of “quality of life/condition” as described by McNeil and Riello: “[f]ood, but also wine, spirits, and confectionery, are appreciated not just because of their price or intrinsic taste but because of their lifestyle association,” (McNeil and Riello 240). This would seem to be consistent with the ambience of the rest of the market. However, the aggressive attempt to mash together the rest of the world under the single label of “exotic” in order to distinguish their chocolate makes it difficult to see how it connects to the apparent Italian authenticity of the rest of the store or even to the regions of world that it is trying to represent. 

Maybe because of this appeal, these chocolates also have very high price points. Prices included $40/lb, $60/lb, $74/lb, and even reached $180/lb at times. Yet, we can see that none of these brands have truly succeeded in representing the world for what it is through chocolate; thus, they justify their price points through an incomplete image of the world and the consumer’s role in the supply chain. Evidently, the mixing of ingredients from various nations that are known to have an exotic appeal to western customers is a testament to the fact that these chocolate brands may be choosing to oversimplify the gastronomical complexity and value of other cultures and nations, choosing instead to group it under a single category meant to entertain western customers more than educate them. 

As an example of this, the brand “Domori” focuses very seriously on the origin of the cacao bean used to produce each bar, making that the focus of the packaging on their chocolate products. However, taking a closer look at this “origin conscious packaging” reveals a slightly different story. For example, for chocolate from Venezuela, one can see that the center of the image on the packaging is that of a sloth on a tropical tree. However, sloths have absolutely nothing to do with cacao besides the fact that are both present in Venezuelan ecosystems. 

Domori’s Venezuelan chocolate packaging.

On another packaging, the focus is on criollo cacao, with the central image being a cacao tree and a single pod broken open to reveal the inside. Yet, the cacao pod is represented poorly, with seeds looking more like dry nuts loosely packed in the pod than the real, dense, fruit covered seeds.

Domori’s criollo cacao chocolate packaging.

From all of this information, it appears that the brand appeal to the Italian craft of chocolate provides a more accurate and consistent story than the exotic brands. Although they may not present a complete representation of Italy through their chocolate products either, the other exotic brands fall more easily into traps of misrepresentation. As Leissle states, “Packaging aesthetics range from whimsical … to sober … but the primary lure is nearly always an exotic representation of chocolate’s origins,” (Leissle 25), and this is exactly what can be seen in the products presented at Eataly. 

As another example, the brand donna Elvira’s chocolate packaging includes winding and twisting tree branches, with cacao pods growing not from the trunks of these trees, but from the ends of flimsy, almost twig-like branches, which is known to be inaccurate. Cacao grows on the trunks of the tree as well as on the lower, thicker, and sturdier branches. Additionally, climbing through these branches are figures that appear to be half monkey, half human, with facial features reminding one of blackface. As Robertson says, 

“The use of black people in advertising has a long history. As Jan Pieterse demonstrates, products made available through the use of slave labour, such as coffee and cocoa, often used, and many still use, images of black people to enhance their luxury status,” (Robertson 36). 

So it is not surprising, given this information, that we find a brand that egregiously and unacceptably exploits this same advertising scheme that has been used since the times of colonialism. Moreover, 

“… images of Africa in U.S. media fall generally into one or two categories – Africa as ‘trouble,’ which includes poverty, conflict, debt, and HIV/AIDS, and Africa as ‘curiosity,’ which involved tribal people wearing colorful clothes and beads, hunting, gathering, and living close to nature,” (Leissle 26). 
From this, it is evident that the brand donna Elvira has appealed strongly to the second stereotype, depicting black people as wild, silly monkeys in a natural environment gathering cacao pods. Not only does this packaging serve as a misrepresentation of cacao farming, but of an entire race and region of the world. 

An example of donna Elvira’s chocolate packaging.
A closer look at the design shows cacao pods growing off of tropical trees and monkeys with what appears to be blackface harvesting them.

Additionally, these brands appealed to exoticism through modes of production, truly extending their attempts to distinguish themselves in every manner possible. Chocolate brands advertised modica chocolate, cold pressed chocolate, or handmade chocolate. In fact, as Leissle writes, “ … images are powerful, because they generate an escapist fantasy, inviting the shopper to experience a place more wonderful and tropical than wherever they are (probably) standing when buying the bar … Unusual, seductive words – Sambirano, Dos Rios, Esmeraldas – localize the chocolate in a mysterious place, always far distant,” (Leissle 25). 

Therefore, when one looks close enough, it is quite obvious that these brands are looking for an exotic appeal, trusting that their customers will not pay too much attention to the details (or overlooking them themselves). This basic exotic appeal avoids a truly in-depth connection between the customer and the journey of the cacao bean to the chocolate bar.  The goal is to create a fantastical world for the customer, not to represent the reality of the regions and cultures that it is taking advantage of.  

On the other hand, those brands appealing to luxury and quality fell into another trap with these exotic brands of associating quality with perfection, sustainability, and success. “Even more, it is not uncommon to encounter the dangerous idea that quality of chocolate is directly linked with quality of life of cacao producer. That a cacao sample is of superior quality does not imply that those who produced it have better lives. Flavor is insufficient evidence,” (Martin). It seems like this is the mistake that many customers of Eataly could potentially be making, thinking that quality of chocolate is directly associated with a perfect brand engagement with all aspects of the supply chain.

It is clear that the chocolate section of Eataly presents an inconsistent image with regards to the rest of the marketplace, and the various messages that it attempts to communicate obscure many aspects of the cacao supply chain. It attracts people with claims of luxury and exoticism that end up creating a false sense of “chocolate consciousness”. This is not to say that the chocolates are of poor quality. In fact, they are very likely to be delicious. However, this is to say that whether or not these brands are aware of it, they appear to still fall victim to common stereotypes and marketing strategies, overlooking the complete impact of their products on the way they represent the chocolate supply chain and their actions to consumers.

Works Cited:

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” University of California Press, vol. 13, no. 3, 2013, pp. 22–31., http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/gfc.2013.13.3.22.

Martin, Carla D. “Sizing the Craft Chocolate Market.” Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, Fine Cacao and Chocolate Institute, 31 Aug. 2017, chocolateinstitute.org/blog/sizing-the-craft-chocolate-market/.

McNeil, Peter, and Giorgio Riello. Luxury: a Rich History. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester University Press, 2009.

Arab-Islamic Civilization and Sugar: Laying the Foundation of Modern Sweets and World Food Culture

The Arab-Islamic Civilization spread the cultivation and consumption of sugar, changing worldwide habits and trends in food culture and creations to the modern day.  Straddling three continents, Islamic empires in the medieval era allowed an intermingling of cultures and traditions, from East to West. “The Arab expansion westward marked a turning point in the European experience of sugar…the Arabs introduced sugar cane, its cultivation, the art of sugar making, and a taste for this different kind of sweetness.” (Mintz, 23) It would change the course of history and affect lands and peoples much far away; laying the foundations of large scale plantations that would eventually be established in the Americas and Caribbean Islands.

In a few centuries, sugar went from being a scarce spice and medicine, to a widely consumed, daily staple product of people of all economic standing, all over the world. The crystallization of sugar first started in India and was used in Persia by the sixth century. After the rise of Islam, the Arabs entered Persia and were introduced to the age-old process of sugar produced from cane, adopting and further developing these techniques.  They planted sugar-cane in plantations across their empires, in Mesopotamia, the Levant, Egypt, North Africa, Al-Andalus (Spain and Portugal), and by the tenth century the Arabs were growing the crop in Sicily, all the while perfecting the process of refining it in sugar mills. (Salloum, 4)

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Picture 1: Map Showing Sugar Cultivation by Muslims

In the lands of the Mediterranean, Arabs developed agriculture and introduced new crops to the land, such as, orange, lemon, banana, saffron, fig, date trees, and most importantly, sugar cane. Wherever the Arabs went, they brought sugar, the product and technology of its production with them, to the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, Crete and Malta. (Mintz, 25) During the Muslim rule in Spain, there was numerous contributions of irrigation, soil management, and scholarly efforts in farming innovation. (Hughes, 68) These plants were used not only in agriculture, but for pharmacy, gardens, luxury trade, and arts.

For nearly eight centuries, under her (Muslim) rulers, Spain set to all of Europe a shining example of a civilized and enlightened State.  Her fertile provinces, rendered doubly prolific by the industry and engineering skill of her conquerors, bore fruit an hundredfold.  Cities innumerable sprang up in the rich valleys of the Guadalquivir and the Guadiana, whose names, and names only, still commemorate the vanished glories of their past. (Lane-Poole, vii)

Irrigation and agricultural practices established then has had a lasting impact. “The knowledge, handwork, commodities, and luxuries of the East were brought by caravans to the farther East, and came by shipping from the Levant to the Mediterranean ports of Spain.  Seeds and plants were thus transported; thus, came rice and cotton and the sugar-cane”.  (Coppee, 397) Sugar was cultivated as far north as Castellon, which is probably the most northerly point of its commercial cultivation. To the south, it was grown in Arabia Felix, Abyssinia, and the islands and the mainland of East Africa from the ninth century.  From Arabia Felix, or directly from Oman, the plant was brought to Zanzibar, where it was reported the finest sugar came.  From Zanzibar, the plant could have been taken to Madagascar.  (Watson, 30)

Sugar was at first regarded an important spice and medicinal component and was consumed in large quantities in the Middle East.  It was used by physicians from India to Spain, slowly entering European medical practice via Arab Pharmacology.  (Mintz, 80) As early as the eleventh century a treatise on sugar was written by a Baghdadi doctor. (Watson, 27) In addition to the medicinal component, Arabs had a rich development of recipes and cuisine that strongly featured sugar at the time of its movement to Europe. In the Medieval Islamic world, sugar enriched many dishes: sour foods, fish, meats, and stews. Of course, pastries and jams especially were a “paradise of sugar”, using syrups made of white sugar and crystals of colored sugar.  Specific sweets using sugar such as stuffed cannoli, squash jam, caramelized semolina, jelly, among others. In Europe, the names of a number of several medieval dishes reveal their Arab origin. (Zaouali, 44)

“The decades that followed the Moors’ conquest of the Iberian Peninsula brought in a dominant Arab influence—in culture, food, and drink, but especially in the introduction of sugarcane-based sweet treats… And there the foundation was laid for sugar-cane based sweet treats of the world as well…In the history of sweet treats, few “events” had the impact on Western civilizations as did the near-800-year occupation of the Iberian Peninsula by Muslim peoples.   Their main sweet treat legacy—sugarcane” (Roufs, 304)

There was a further East to West transmission of food culture as well.  Figures such as Ziryab, credited with the renewal of the culinary arts in Spain and Europe.  In the ninth century, he moved from Abbasid Baghdad to the ruler’s court in Cordoba.  He led a renewal of culinary understanding and elegance, introducing low tables, tablecloths, cups made from glass, and the succession of courses in a definite order, ending with a sweet dessert. (Zaouali, 41).

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Picture 2: Fourteenth century manuscript document from Ibn al-Bitar’s “Book of Simples” depicting sugar cane. 

The dispersal of Arab inspired sweets left a mark especially on Southern Europe, Spain, Portugal, and Sicily; also transmitted to the Americas with later conquests of the Spanish and Portuguese empires.  Sweet dishes found in Mexico and Latin America such Bunuelos, Alfajores, and Arroz con Leche, were inherited from the medieval Arab chefs in Damascus and Baghdad.  (Salloum, 8) The Arab legacy on sweet foods remains in modern day commodities, many deriving their name directly from the Arabic language. The word ‘Candy’ comes from the Arabic qandi, stemming from the Sanskrit khanda (piece of sugar).  Sherbet, Syrup and Sorbet derive from the Arabic word shariba or sharab (to drink).  The ubiquitous drinks Soda Suwwad (saltwort), Coffee (qahwa), and Alcohol are all derived from Arabic.  Other food term that originate from Arabic, include fruits and vegetables such as Lemon, Lime, Orange, Shaddock, Apricot, Artichoke, Spinach, as well as spices such as Sumac, Saffron, Carob, Caraway, and Tamarind. Rice and pasta were also transmitted to Europe via the Arabs (Watson, 23). Marzipan and sugar decorations were documented in the Middle East centuries before its appearance in Europe, especially in festive times such as Ramadan. (Mintz, 88).

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 11.19.40 PM.png Continue reading Arab-Islamic Civilization and Sugar: Laying the Foundation of Modern Sweets and World Food Culture

Audrey Hepburn Sells Chocolate

    In the advertisement above a computer generated image (CGI) of Audrey Hepburn is used to sell Dove dark chocolate (Rohwedder). It is most likely aimed at the target demographic of women whom Audrey represents. The advertising company cleverly resurrects the adored late Audrey Hepburn. Her computerized look alike cleverly portrays Audrey’s iconic persona so convincingly that it almost feels like Audrey is and always will be with us. This association of Dove dark chocolate with Audrey the immortal legend who represents beauty, innocence, and sweetness refreshingly stands out amongst other ads which use sexualized imagery to sell chocolate products. The Dove chocolate advertisement emulates Audrey’s feminine and naive innocence, and the purity of 1950’s. Together these elements stand in stark contrast to the typical and predictable techniques to sell products with overt sexualization.

    The story line and narrative of the advertisement which is set in the idealized 50’s era, cleverly recreates the feel of the 1953 film “The Roman Holiday” starring Ms. Hepburn. The delightful visuals of a charming coastal Italian town, with hints of romance and the purity of an era of film long past, all work perfectly to set the tone. The computer generated Audrey Hepburn and her handsome lead man who closely resembles the iconic Cary Grant give a sense of a whimsical light-hearted unpredictability. The story starts with lovely Audrey sitting on a packed public bus which is stuck in a traffic. The mayhem is due to a collapsed fruit stand and it’s flamboyant owner. Audrey (or the CGI version of Audrey) looks longingly into her purse at her bar of Dove dark chocolate, then she glances out her bus window and meets the eyes of a handsome man in a car alongside the bus. When their eyes meet he gives Audrey an inviting wave gesturing her to his car. She smiles and without hesitation strolls out of the bus and playfully takes the bus drivers hat on her way to the handsome strangers car. She places the bus driver’s hat on the handsome man’s head, takes a seat in the back of his car- intimating and officiating him as her chauffeur. Looking slightly put out and yet besotted with her at the same time he drives away with Audrey in the back seat. The final scene is of Audrey with the handsome man driving on a winding coastal road as she snaps off a piece of Dove dark chocolate, placing it into her mouth framed by her perfectly scarlet glossed lips when the words “It’s not just dark. It’s Dove” appear against a perfect blue Italian sky. The advertisement refreshingly sells the chocolate by leaving the audience with the resonating feeling of romance, happiness, and beauty and lingering warm thoughts of chocolate. Moreover, the ad refreshingly empowers lovely and pure Audrey to sell their dark chocolate.

    Now that I have discussed the CGI version of adorable, innocent and flirty Audrey Hepburn as the star of the Dove chocolate commercial. For my advertisement, I created a montage of another side of Audrey. She remains the star of the ad, and similarly she is not sexualized in the ad in order to sell chocolate, but she does represents and evoke the opposite emotions of the romantic advertisement. The opposite of sweet, flirty, and happy go lucky is angry, sad, and unromantic and these emotions used correctly can also sell chocolate. In my advertisement, Audrey portrays women’s darker emotions and the audience is left with the resonating desire to consume dark chocolate. While both advertisements use the technique of using emotion to persuade, opposite emotions are employed in each ad. Audrey sells both while retaining her purity, innocence, and charm. Ultimately both advertisements sell chocolate, one to celebrate and relax and the other to comfort and calm, both appeal to the demographic of women.

    In the advertisement I produced the clips and scenes were drawn from a few Audrey Hepburn films to give the tumultuous and intense emotions of sadness, stress, and anxiety, which call require chocolate. Sometimes chocolate can be the only fix to receive comfort during these times. My advertisement implicitly delivers the message that if you need comfort, only a bar of dark chocolate will do. When I chose to use the more realistic, misunderstood, sad or angry, and even comical sections of Audrey’s films the technique of persuasion even worked on me. While editing my advertisement I had to eat dark chocolate. My persuasion technique was effective on me, who doesn’t turn to chocolate to comfort themselves. Find an escape in chocolate in good times and in bad like Audrey and every other woman.

“For the Brightest & Darkest of Times… Dark Chocolate”

References:

Grant, Eilidh L. “AUDREY HEPBURN SELLS DARK CHOCOLATE: Advertisement for Class.” Youtube. Eilidh Grant, 8 Apr. 2016. Web. 8 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ROK7JZSZyY&feature=youtu.be&gt;.

“”It’s DOVE:Feat. Audrey Hepburn” 2014 Commercial.” Youtube. Cinemagia Filmes, 15 Mar. 2014. Web. 6 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB44n4ADg2Y&gt;.

Rohwedder, Kristie. “How Did They Make the Audrey Hepburn Dove Chocolate Commercial? Let’s Take a Look.” Bustle. Bustle, 28 Apr. 2014. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <http://www.bustle.com/articles/22563-how-did-they-make-the-audrey-hepburn-dove-chocolate-commercial-lets-take-a-look&gt;.

From Gianduja to Nutella: A Short History of Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

IAs someone who has always liked Nutella (and therefore recognizes that the European version is far superior to our domestic alternative), I love that it is available nearly everywhere in Europe, and Italy, in particular. On one morning during a recent visit, as I was eating a breakfast croissant smothered with the chocolate hazelnut spread, I began to wonder about its history and began to look further into how it was created. I discovered that the transformation of chocolate from small candy (and from beverage before that) to a spread was shaped by a series of economic and political constraints in early 19th-20th century Italy, and this transformation led to the modern-day chocolate-hazelnut spread, Nutella.

The story of chocolate-hazelnut spread first begins with the story of Gianduja and Italy’s obsession with chocolate borne in the early 17th century. Italy first became exposed to chocolate through its trade relations with during this time (Kummer 2006; Coe and Coe 2013). By the early 1800s, Turin, still famous today for its chocolate, had become an international chocolate capital of the world, with many chocolate houses and chocolatiers (Kummer 2006). In 1806, during the Napoleanic wars, however, the royal navy of UK imposed a blockade on all French ports prompting Napolean to forbid all trade between his conquered territory and the British. This naval blockade affected Piedmont (of which Turin is the capital), which Napolean controlled at the time, severely diminishing the influx of chocolate into the region and making cocoa expensive and rare (Mitzman 2014). Coincidentally, Piedmont was, and still is, home to the some of the finest hazelnuts in the world. As the availability of cocoa beans diminished, Chocolate makers in Turin began adding hazelnut to chocolate, allowing them to stretch the limited supply, and thus the combination of chocolate and hazelnut was born.

It was not until years later, however, that the confection was available to the general public. In 1865, Caffarel, a well known chocolate company in the area, created Gianduja, a small, triangle-shaped, chocolate hazelnut candy which was made for the Turin carnival (Mitzman 2014). It was named based on the carnival character Gianduja (seen below), who wore a hat similar in shape to the chocolate, and passed out the candies.  Though adored by Italians throughout the nation, Gianduja was very expensive and viewed almost exclusively as a luxury good.

Gianduja, shown above, was a carnival character in Piedmont, and the namesake of Gianduja, the hazelnut-chocolate candy
Gianduja, shown above, was a carnival character in Piedmont, and the namesake of Gianduja, the hazelnut-chocolate candy (Mitzman 2014)

In the 1940s in particular, chocolate had to be rationed during World War II and only the wealthiest in Italy could afford the small confectionary treat (Mitzman 2014; and Villanova). This prompted Pietro Ferrero (namesake of the modern-day chocolate conglomerate Ferrero Rocher) to create Gianduja Paste, a paste version of the chocolate-hazelnut candy that could be cut and spread, making it last even longer than Gianduja: whereas Gianduja was consumed like candy, just a small amount of Gianduja paste could be spread on an entire loaf of bread. The Gianduja paste that Ferrero sold at his first store in Alba, Piedmont (below)  marked the beginning of a new era for chocolate consumption.

Pietro Ferrero's first chocoalte store in Piedmont (Nutella USA)
Pietro Ferrero’s first chocoalte store in Piedmont (Nutella USA)

The paste was immensely popular but could be difficult to spread, prompting Ferrero to innovate further, creating a more easily spreadable form of Gianduja Paste called Supercrema a few years later (Deitsche 2013 and Mitzman 2014). The company marketed the product to children specifically, as can be seen in the advertisement below, emphasizing it as a fun, sweet, and luxurious treat.

An early advertisement for Supercrema, the predecessor to today's Nutella (Mitzman 2014)
An early advertisement for Supercrema, the predecessor to today’s Nutella (Mitzman 2014)

In 1964, Supercrema was rebranded as Nutella, combining the word “nut” with the soft “ella” ending shared by other, already adored Italian foods like mozzarella and caramella (Mitzman 2014; Villanova). Today, the company is the number one buyer of hazelnuts in the world and sells around 365,000 tons of the chocolate hazelnut spread annually (Mitzman 2014). Since 1964, various other companies have created their own chocolate hazelnut spread both in the United States (such as Hershey’s or Jif brand) and especially in Italy (Krystal 2014), but Nutella remains immensely popular worldwide.

References

“A Brief History of Nutella” Villanova University. N.d. Web.

“The History of Nutella.” Nutella USA. N.d. Web.

Coe, Sophie D. and Michael D. Coe. 2013[1996]. The True History of Chocolate. 3nd edition. London: Thames & Hudson.

Deitsch, Lauren. “Who Put Hazelnuts in My Chocolate? The History of Nutella.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Nov. 2013. Web.

Kummer, Corby. “In Turin, Chocolate’s the Champion.” The New York Times. 15 February 2006.

Mitzman, Dany. “Nutella: How the World Went Nuts for a Hazelnut Spread.” BBC News. 17 May 2014. Web.

Salkled, Lauren. “Move Over, Nutella: Nine Alternative Chocolate-Hazelnut Spreads.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 23 October 2014.