Michele Ferrero, owner and founder of the namesake Ferrero confectionary group, passed away February 14 at the age of 89.
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems appropriate that the man who brought us Nutella would pass away on Valentine’s Day. What better tribute to an accomplished chocolate man then buying, giving and devouring chocolate for a holiday filled with love?
We can laugh, but Michele Ferrero built an empire from that love of chocolate. He founded the company in 1946 in Alba, Italy, a town in northern Piemonte, creating dozens of new products that are now household staples in Italy and beyond: Tic Tac, Rocher, Kinder and, of course, Nutella.
I heard from a friend who worked with him that Mr. Ferrero was very particular about his company’s brand. His team developed dozens of other products, tested them, named them and boxed them, only for production to be stopped at the last step and never put on the market. Ferrero didn’t want his powerful brand diluted, and though we might be sad that there aren’t at least a dozen other types of Nutella, there must have been something right in the decision: Ferrero Confectionery Group is one of the top confectionary groups in all the world. It exists in 53 countries, has 20 factories and employs approximately 34,000 people throughout the world.
No wonder the company has spread so successfully. One quick google search is enough to see our obsession over the chocolatey treat. Anyone can make chocolate, but that added twist of hazelnut? Oooh, my friends, that’s what got us.
The truth is, Ferrero (along with Mr. Caprotti, the founder of the supermarket empire Esselunga) is a testament to northern Italy’s workmanship and entrepreneurial spirit. In 1971, he was knighted Cavaliere del Lavoro, a prestigious award for his contributions to labor in Italy. Though the hazelnut addition seems so commonsense now, Ferrero was the first to create the chocolate spread and market it on such a large scale.
It’s obvious that Ferrero worked hard, but if you ask me, it’s even more obvious that the world loves Nutella.
So grab a jar and celebrate with me, in honor of Mr. Nutella!