History Of Nutella: How World War II's Chocolate Shortage Became A Blessing

By Karen Harris
Nutella celebrated the 50th anniversary in 2015, but its roots extend back to World War II. (Jonas Güttler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Who doesn't love the ooey-gooey goodness of Nutella? Peanut butter's classier cousin is not only delicious but versatile as well: You can spread it on toast, dip stuff in it, drizzle it over cake, or eat it straight from the jar with your index finger (no judgment). Though you've almost certainly done at least one of those things, what you might not realize is that Nutella is an Italian masterpiece and probably the best by-product of World War II.

The Invention Of Nutella

Nutella was the love child of Pietro Ferrero, a name probably most familiar to you from the boxes of another sweet you've definitely scarfed down at some point: Ferrero Rocher. Ferrero began his career in candy as a baker in 1920s Italy, when he noticed workers at the nearby factory eat their lunches of bread, cheese, tomatoes, and olive oil outside and decided to create a tastier spread to replace their humdrum veggies and dairy.

After moving to Piedmont, he was introduced to gianduja, a thick, nutty spread made with chopped hazelnuts. It was delicious but also unwieldy, so thick that it often tore up the bread a hapless snacker tried to spread it on. After much experimentation, Ferrero had a stiff paste of dark chocolate, hazelnut, and plenty of sugar that he called pastone based on gianduja. At the time, it was still quite a formidable foodstuff, sold in a solid block, but it was immediately a hit with the children of Italy as well as those factory workers.