Palm oil in Nutella: Ferrero responds to attacks

An investigation by “Sept à Huit” looks into the secrets of Nutella.

Ferrero, manufacturer of the famous spread, responds to the recurring criticism it is the subject of.

Particularly at issue: the retention of palm oil in its mysterious recipe.

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Seven to Eight Life

“It’s my doctor who won’t be happy”, laughs a Nutella fan before greedily swallowing a large spoonful of the famous spread in front of the TF1 camera, on the sidelines of the festive event organized by the brand to celebrate its 60th anniversary in a park in the Paris region. It is an understatement to say that at its old age, it is doing well: the property of the Italian multinational Ferrero, with more than 47,000 employees worldwide, has an insolent turnover of 17 billion euros in 2023. “Sept à Huit Life” devoted a major investigation to him, to be found in the video at the top of this article, to dispel the mysteries which continue to surround him. And give him the opportunity to respond to attacks.

It was, initially, chocolate cut into bars by a pastry chef from Alba, in Piedmont, Pietro Ferrero, whose first idea was to travel in a van to sell it in the surrounding villages. It was the scarcity of chocolate after the war that pushed him to mix it with local hazelnuts. Then when, in 1949, a heatwave hit the region of northern Italy, melting the bars to transform them into cream, the miracle occurred. His son, Michele, would then take charge of transforming the thriving family business into a relentless empire.

“Spreadability”

In the spreads department, Nutella has nevertheless seen, in recent years, its market share drop from 85 to 67% in favor of new entrants, with organic or lower calorie offers, all without palm oil. But the brand has never agreed to change its recipe, which is as secret as that of Coca-Cola or the Big Mac sauce. It reveals it in part, and exclusively, to TF1, behind the walls of its Normandy factory in Villers-Ecalles, the group’s largest on the planet, ahead of that of Alba, France being, by far, its best customer, with a consumption of 150 tonnes per day.

Here, machines make 210 pots per minute, 24 hours a day. And in the laboratories, all employees take turns tasting the product daily. Which, we learn, is made up of no more than seven ingredients: sugar (which represents half of the finished product), skimmed milk (powder), roasted hazelnuts, cocoa, soy, vanilla (these two latter in the form of emulsifiers) and palm oil, up to 20% of the composition. “It’s the oil that allows us to have the texture we want to give at room temperatureargues an employee in a white coat. It is completely deodorized and therefore has no taste, but it gives the right creaminess. Between us, we call it ‘spreadability’.”

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While the competition does without it, or replaces it with red beans, Nutella prefers to stick to dietary instructions, such as not exceeding a dose of 15 grams, to preserve it despite its very poor results on nutritional applications. -score. In question: its “almost zero nutritional benefit” regardless of the quantity, according to the national health security agency, and its saturated fatty acids which promote cardiovascular diseases.

But the main criticism leveled at this raw material is its environmental impact: in Southeast Asia, its harvest has caused the deforestation of entire regions. The brand responds that it sources exclusively “sustainable” palm oil, meeting the criteria established by the NGO WWF (which other environmental associations contest). The company even shows us, on screens, how it monitors its suppliers from space to ensure that they do not deforest.

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“Here you can see the precise location of the plantation that supplies us with palm oilpoints out Floriane Hédé, responsible for ingredient traceability at Ferrero. With these satellite images, we would easily see if a brown spot appeared in the middle of the green areas. This would be the symbol of deforestation, which would allow us to investigate on the ground with the help of our suppliers. In the event of proven deforestation, we could close the contract with this supplier.” However, the company did not want to tell us how many suppliers were thus excluded.

“The yield per hectare of palm oil is the best, compared to sunflower, rapeseed or other oilsargues, finally, the quality director Jean-Marc Da Cunha. This makes it possible to produce in large quantities with little land. And today, with this very particular tracing, we are truly certain to only work with producers who are respectful of the environment.” The fact remains: the Italian group’s global palm oil supplies amount to more than 200,000 tonnes per year. And it’s not over: even 100% Nutella veganwhich will be launched this fall, will contain them.


Hamza HIZZIR | Report “Sept à Huit” Stéphane Sanchez

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