Crema Pan di Stelle is made by Italian pasta giant Barilla

By Mike Pomranz
Updated November 26, 2018
EC: What's Actually in a Jar of Nutella?
Credit: photo by Marco Verch via flickr

A few exceptions notwithstanding, most people would agree that Nutella is good. Yes, not everyone reaches the fanboy heights of those who would wait in line for the opening of a new Nutella Café, but given the choice between, say, a plain chocolate brownie and a Nutella chocolate brownie, I can’t imagine many people adamantly declaring that the Nutella option is an inferior choice.

However, for all the advantages the chocolate hazelnut spread has in taste and texture, Nutella does have an issue on the ingredient list: palm oil. Putting aside the question of whether or not palm oil is unhealthy (a couple years ago, reports were swirling that palm oil can increase the risk of cancer), the fat is more controversial for claims that palm oil producers contribute to mass deforestation, hurting indigenous people and animals.

Nutella-producer Ferrero, like many other companies that use palm oil, assert that they use sustainable palm oil, and depending who you believe, these claims may or may not be true. But Barilla, the pasta maker, has come up with a workaround. The company says it plans to release a Nutella competitor next year, maybe as soon as January, that isn’t made with palm oil.

Barilla’s forthcoming Crema Pan di Stelle is hoping to edge in on a chocolate spread market that is reportedly 54 percent controlled by Nutella. The new Barilla product will use sunflower oil instead of palm oil, as well as 10 percent less sugar, sustainable cocoa, and Italian-only hazelnuts, according to Reuters. “It will contain crumbles of [Barilla’s] Pan di Stelle cookies to make it taste crunchy,” a source said.

Of course, attempting to challenge Nutella is one thing; actually cutting into their de facto monopoly is another entirely. Reuters also writes that the second most popular chocolate spread in the world only has 2 percent of the market. Some might see that as a massive opportunity, whereas others might interpret it to mean that no one has been able to challenge Nutella whether they want to or not. “Crema Pan di Stelle will increase competition for Nutella in Italy thanks to the considerable brand awareness it has among domestic customers, but Barilla will find it difficult to take the challenge abroad,” one analyst was quoted as saying.

But as a funny aside to this whole thing, Reuters also suggests that the reason for Barilla getting into the chocolate spread game might be less about business and more about revenge. Apparently, the pasta giant is upset that Ferrero is trying to steal a bit of its cookie business by selling Nutella-filled cookies. Maybe Barilla should play up that angle: Who doesn’t like helping someone get revenge… on top of saving the environment, of course?