The Nutella Experiment

Growing up in Germany means being exposed to different foods than kids here in America. I still remember the jelly, my grandmother used to make from homegrown raspberries, we helped her pick in the garden.
Kids in Europe usually don’t know much about peanut butter and grow up on hazelnut spread instead. There are different brands, all with subtle flavor differences, featuring either a more nutty or more chocolaty taste. Ferrero’s Nutella is the leading brand, with the term Nutella being synonymously used for Hazelnut Spreads all over Europe. Not surprisingly, it’s also among the more expensive hazelnut chocolate spreads.

The Nutella success story began in northwestern Italy, shortly after World War II, when master confectioner Pietro Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy, to extend the chocolate supply. 23 years later, in 1969, Ferrero U.S.A., Inc. was founded and Nutella was introduced to the US market. Today, the Nutella supply for the US is produced in Canada and somehow finds its way to my breakfast table quite regularly.
Lately, Nutella became more popular here in the US, (e.g. My Nutella – Rihanna Umbrella Parody, and was featured in the Los Angeles Times’ Food Section this February: Nutty for Nutella: spreadable joy however during a recent visit to Germany http://twitter.com/tompaulus and I made a disturbing discovery. The Nutella in Germany tastes differently than the Nutella here in the US and what’s even worse, the German stuff tastes much better.

The Nutella Experiment

Back in the US we almost forgot about the taste difference, until one morning when we once again enjoyed the creamy goodness. But we weren’t sure anymore, if the German Nutella really tasted better and therefore decided to find out and do the ultimate taste-test.

Acquisition

Like abovementioned, the Nutella here in the US is actually a product of Canada, and available in many grocery store chains like VONS, Ralphs, or Albertsons; the Store Locator may show some additional stores locations near you.
The North American Nutella sample for out test was purchased at the World Market in Oceanside, which offers the 13 OZ (370 g) plastic jar for US$ 3.99

Finding Nutella, produced in Europe, or to be more precise in Germany, can be a real challenge. Fortunately, Big John, founder and owner of Tip Top Meats – European Delicatessen, Inc. calls Carlsbad his home and his store offers many German and European specialties, among them extraordinary German beers (topic for another blog post, maybe) and Nutella. Slightly more expensive, the 29.1 OZ (825 g) glass jar was to be had for US$ 10.49

Classification

For the untrained shopper it can be quite challenging to see the subtle differences in the packaging. Here are some hints:

  • Glass vs. Plastic – a glass jar is a strong hint that you may have found Nutella, originating in Europe.
  • Texture on the embossed text on the lid – all lids seem to be white with the Nutella name embossed. However, the German version has a dotted texture on the characters.
  • Golden Foil – removing the lid reveals a golden foil, sealing the content. The North American version is blank, the German Nutella has the product name and additional information printed on the foil.

Look, Smell, and Taste

To create fair and equal test conditions, we kept the two jars for one week in a dark location at room temperature. Opening the lids and removing the golden foil was already an eye-opening experience. The German Nutella is a little darker and the surface appear to be less shiny.

The smell is even more telling that there must be a difference. The North-American product doesn’t seem to be releasing much scent at all. The German Nutella on the other hand has a noticeable nutty scent.
The widely-known Spoon Test showed that the consistency of the North-American Nutella is a little creamier and softer.

Obviously, taste is subjective, and opinions differ even stronger, when it comes to food. However, all participating Nutella Testers (that would be http://twitter.com/tompaulus and http://twitter.com/wolfpaulus) agreed unanimously that the German Nutella tastes much more intensive, more nutty and chocolaty, when compared with the North-American product. One tester got blind folded and was still able to identified the Nutella’s origin in four consecutive tests.
The German Nutella tasted better and not surprisingly, was strongly preferred during the meal following the Taste Test.

Better Then Nothing But Still A Bad Copy

If a European or German version is unavailable or simply too hard to get then we will certainly continue to buy the Canadian version of the Nutella product. However, I feel sorry for the typical American consumer, who doesn’t even know what the real stuff tastes like.
There are many more examples like that. Take for instance the famous Harp Lager, an Irish beer (cousin of Guinness Stout) and widely available here in the US. The label clearly states Imported, a closer look however reveals that imported in this case means imported from Canada, where the beer is brewed and bottled. Again, the taste is different when compared to the real Irish Harp, which can be sampled in some fine Irish pubs here in Southern California.
Seems like food corporations could do a much better job when introducing foreign specialties but instead are sacrificing quality for profit or maybe act just carelessly.
On the other hand, if given a choice, we as consumers shouldn’t be rewarding those companies by buying their “tainted” products. Coke for example puts High Fructose Corn Syrup in the Coca-Cola it’s selling here in the US. The Coca-Cola bottled in Tijuana, Mexico however, is made with cane sugar.Cron.com had an interesting piece about this here: Have a taste of the real thing – sugar, that is
Just like my grandmother did way back when, we should be spending our money more consciously, going the extra mile, buying products from companies that do the same.

23 Comments

  1. Thanks for writing about this. I have been vindicated.
    My husband (American) thought I (German) was crazy when I mentioned that the North American Nutalla just doesn’t taste the same. Not even the Italian-made Nutella tastes as good as the German version. We live in Canada and I have to go out of my way to go to the German delis that carry the German product, which costs almost twice as much as the Italian/North American versions. But it’s worth every penny

  2. My wife and i brought back about 6 jars of “real” nutella from paris on our vacation. I never liked nutella until we went there and i had the real stuff! Definitely a difference.

  3. You are so right..I finally found a supplier who carries the 5kg italian Nutella. If you consider the option of a $11 jar 500g grams the 5kg is half the price..5kg $60. My kids are crazy about it and won;t touch the canadian version..

  4. I moved here 10 years ago and have given in to buying the Canadian version, but I truly miss the Nutella from back home. It IS different and thank you Wolf for this little “scientific” comparison. IMMD.
    @Ralf: Where/who is your supplier of the 5Kg Italian Nutella? I would love to some.

  5. i’ve lived in france and in the united states and i’ve also travelled and lived in germany, austria, and italy and all the nutella from those countries are different.
    so it is actually not surprising at all that nutella from the united states is different. and while you are all saying that ‘the real stuff’ tastes better, you’re probably just thinking that you’re talking about the same nutella, but really you’re just talking about the nutella you grew up with and are probably the most familiar with.
    personally i prefer french nutella as it is a lot creamier than all the other nutella…
    and if there is a ‘real’ nutella, it has to be the italian version since that is the original nutella.

  6. great article… the canadian version isn’t even remotely close to the same in taste or texture… real nutella is shiny, smooth and runnier vs the peanut butter consistency of the horrible canadian mock… i realized the taste difference immediately… definitely get the glass jar, it will cost more but worth every penny… there are euro versions found everywhere in the usa if you just search local import stores…

  7. The German Nutella tastes and smells better. I grew up in Germany, and now purchase Nutella at my local grocery store. I knew there was a difference so I googled it and found this site.

  8. I agree, the german one tastes better and is also lower in fat. I noticed this growing up in both Germany and the US. It is funny, bc the last time I lived there. They actually had a kids documentary ( I think, Sendung mit der Maus) about why every country has a different one. They said that Nutella is developed depending on which type of bread each country has. Germany has a the harder crusted so they keep firmer. Whereas France and the USA eat a lot soft white bread, so they make it oilier. Makes sense. I still wish they had the less oily version here.

  9. I live in Thailand. I travelled a lot. I agree that Nutella from Germany is more delicious than from any other parts of the world.

  10. I moved to the US in 1975 from Germany. Nutella in Germany was much better, and also I think fresher too. Most american bread was even more awful. I doubt you could have given wonderbread away as duck food in germany.

  11. I recently was living in France and traveling around with my best friend when our first flight to Europe landed in London, we were shocked at the nutella everywhere and the cute glass jars and we bought one. That night we ate it for dinner, it was the most wonderful tasting thing ever. Checking the ingredients the European version is NOT made with Palm oil like the US version and instead vegetable oil. Do your research on palm oil and the way they process it, it is so cheap, yet so harmful to the body. I’ve gotten sick from eating nutella in the US and now have a version I can eat. I don’t know why the quality of most food seems to go down in america compared to Europe.

  12. I’ve only had the American version and personally always found it quite sweet. It’s not something I could really have for breakfast, for me it’s more of a snack. It would be a real treat if I could manage to find the European version of Nutella. I was wondering what if any difference there is in the ingredient list between the German and American versions.

  13. It is unfortunate that the United States often has poorer food quality than the rest of the world. Often lower food standards are used to boost profits. (Funny how that works) Often other countrys have much more regimented laws about what can go into food products.

    Thank you for alerting us to another product that has taken the low road in the U.S. market.

    BTW have you compared the ingredients between the two? I would be curious to find out what differences there are if any.

    Have an amazing day,

    Chef Felisha

  14. There is another Nutella that is even better than the German – the Italian one. This is actually the original one and is way better than the others. Try it and you will taste the difference.

    Kristof

  15. Oh please, can you try to buy a different brand, not Nutella? Nutella contains palm oil, which is one of the reasons rain forests are being destroyed with breathtaking speed. There are alternatives that do not contain palm oil (that article is in German, but there are images of the products that contain palm oil & their alternatives): http://www.utopia.de/galerie/palmoel-produkte-marke-palmoelfreie-alternativen

  16. It is really funny that you mention the peanut butter thing cause i live in the Netherland and i recently tried vegan baking for my boyfriend, and i came upon some american baking sites and i am amazed of the amount of peantut butter that some bloggers use. When i was growing at one point we had five differend jars of chocolate spreads on the breakfast/lunch table, for each of my siblings one (we where spoiled i know). And then there was the jar of peanut butter that nobody touched haha. I alway had the nuttella, wich where stored in a drinking glass that you could use after you finished all the nutella, they had al these different cartooncharacters, i still have some of them. But to get to the point of your whole blog post, i’ve never tated the american version so i can’t make a comperrison with that onebut i did taste the italian one witch i don’t thig tasted that much different from the dutch one. when i was 14 i went with my father to italie and they hateven nutella icecream and in the grocery stores there where like 5 sheles all filled with nutella jars in all sices you can imagene.

  17. i grew up eating nutella but now i can´t stand its smell and taste after meeting with these products…i live in istanbul, turkey (nutella hazelnuts are exported from here)and i am sure it is really impossible to find these in your country but just keep in mind and try them when you get a chance…
    http://www.sarelle.com.tr/en/products.html

    also just like the peanut butter in usa, we have hazelnut cream here which consists %45 – % 70 of hazelnuts depending on the product….

    believe me you won´t look for german nutella or whatever, and this comes from a person who has eaten german nutella for at least 20 years….

  18. I am German living in Australia for 17 years found the Nutella made in Australia of substandard, so I bought another brand coming from Italy instead. But on a recent trip to the pilliphines found Nutella made in Germany (label all in German language) and another Nutella from Australia almost next to each other. Only difference was the german version was almost twice the price. I bought both version and gave them to my friend who is a choc addict :-) for a testing, and she confirmed the difference in quality as well

  19. here in my country we have the Australian version of nutella. it’s nothing like the german version which I love. I was wondering, if the Australian version is the same as the canads version, or slightly better? the ingredients itself the australian is more similar to the german’s. so probably the canada version is the worst of all.

  20. But beware, the English and polish nutella also taste much worse than the German. Thanks your article!

  21. I’ve always found Nutella way too sweet. The first ingredient in all Nutellas (European or North American) is sugar! Luckily in the USA, other innovative companies have picked up on this over-sweetness of Nutella and made their own hazelnut-chocolate spreads which taste far superior to even the best Nutellas (you can actually taste the hazelnuts and chocolate, not thick oily sugar!). Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter is one such example & widespread in most supermarkets in the USA. First ingredient: hazelnuts. Rather than paying the premium for imported German stuff, why not try pay the premium to try some real (and tasty) hazelnut spread?

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