I don’t think I can go a day on Twitter or reading through my favorite food blogs without coming across at least one mention of Nutella in all its yummy hazelnutty, chocolately goodness. Earlier this month the uber talented Jenni Field AKA Online Pastry Chef (@PastryChfOnline) did an interesting comparison of Nutella and other chocolate hazelnut spreads. Go ahead, take a moment and read her analysis here. I’ll wait.
Then earlier this week she tweeted a blog post by Wolf Paulus who uncovered a Nutella secret: The American and German versions are NOT. THE. SAME. There were subtle differences not only in taste and texture but in the packaging as well.
Apparently the American version is produced in and imported from Canada, the original version is from Italy. Wolf compared versions from the US and Germany and he found differences in the products: he and his testers preferred the German version.
So anyway, after reading his analysis and chatting with Jenni in 140 characters or less, I realize my curiosity had gotten the better of me; I decided I need to do my own quasi-scientific experiment as well. She joked about my willingness to “take one for the team”. I figured I could suffer through it LOL
There is an Italian market not far from my house called Uncle Giuseppe’s which carries many imported and interesting, I might add, products. So I figured that if anyone would have it they would. Makes sense: Italian market – Italian product – oh the logic.
I had planned on going over the weekend but I could hardly contain myself when I got home and
babbled mentioned it to my husband.
Me: honey, since we have to run out anyway, would you mind taking a ride with me over to Uncle Giuseppe’s? I need to see if they have Nutella imported from Europe.
Husband: Sure, what are you making?
Me: well you see I had this conversation… I think I bounced around the room as I blathered on recounting the entire story for him.
So now here’s where I ever so slightly risk embarrassing myself in the middle of a supermarket. They happened to have a HUGE display by the produce area and I squealed when I saw it. I think I did a little hop too. I grabbed a bottle and realized it was glass, not plastic! Yes! I looked for all the signs and then checked the label: Imported from Italy!!! SCORE!
I grabbed two bottles and bounced, yes I did, over to the checkout counter. I’m sure this amused my husband; I know the lady at the register found me quite comical.
The next day I ran to a local chain supermarket and picked up a fresh bottle of the American version for this experiment…and panko breadcrumbs but that’s a different post.
Okay lady, get on with it already.
So here’s my Quasi-scientific experiment:
While the ingredient lists are comparable, they are not the same. Most notably the European version uses vegetable oil and the American version uses palm oil. Some of this may be semantics, but it is also worth noting that in Europe they use fat-reduced cocoa powder, skimmed milk powder and whey powder, while here the manufacturer uses cocoa, skim milk and reduced minerals whey. Take from that what you will.
You also need to consider where these ingredients or sourced – if they are not the same and I wouldn’t expect them to be, that too can have an impact on the final product.
European (Italian) Version:
Sugar, vegetable oil, hazelnuts (13%), fat-reduced cocoa powder (7.4%), skimmed milk powder (5%), whey powder, emulsifier (lecithins) (soy), flavourant (vanillin).
Sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin: an artificial flavor.
So here’s how we did it:
We took two unopened bottles of Nutella, one from Italy and the other from the US. Upon opening each we gave them a sniff and surveyed their appearance.
- European version has a pronounced chocolate aroma. As for appearance, it appeared to be a semi-gloss, looked thick.
- American version he felt was the same as far as aroma goes but noted the oily appearance.
- European version has a stronger chocolatey aroma. I also detected hazelnut. As for appearance, I got the same impression: semi-gloss, and a thick appearance.
- For the American version overall it was less aromatic, I also did not detect much if any hazelnut. It appeared glossy and oily
For the taste test, I put the same size glob of each into small bowls labeled on the bottom with origin and we took turns tasting: He closed his eyes and I fed him and he did the same for me. (I have to admit this was kinda fun) We each took a sip of water between the two to cleanse our palettes.
Here’s what my husband said:
- European: Thick, chocolate, rich, pronounced flavor.
- US: chocolatey, rich, oily.
So when asked which he liked better, he chose the European version.
Here’s what I detected:
- European: Pronounced hazelnut and chocolate, thick, sweet
- US: Thin, very sweet, not as flavorful as the previous one I tasted (remember I didn’t know which was which) very oily.
I too preferred the European version.
We both preferred the European version in texture and taste. Of course it’s easy to tell the difference when they are side by side but my husband said he’s not sure if he was eating one or the other he would be able to detect it’s origin. I think I would. In fact I will now only buy my Nutella from Uncle Giuseppe’s to ensure I get the good stuff!
One last point I want to mention: viscosity. Look at the difference between the European (left) and American (right) versions. This is after they sat for oh about 30 minutes or so.
You can clearly see where the spoon dug into the European version but it is barely visible in the American version.