- Italy’s Barilla, best known for its pasta and sauces, is launching a chocolate spread next year in a direct attempt to compete with international favorite, Nutella, Reuters reported.
- Until now, Nutella has faced little significant competition. The brand commands 54% of global sales in the chocolate spread market — worth $2.3 billion.
- The new product from Barilla is palm oil free. Ferrero, the company that makes Nutella, has faced criticism for using the ingredient in the chocolate hazelnut spread.
Barilla is not the first a major food brand to attempt to capture a portion of the Nutella-dominated chocolate spread market. However, no alternatives have been very successful. Consumers remain loyal to the texture and flavor of Nutella. The second most popular chocolate hazelnut spread, Cokokrem from the Swiss company Lindt, accounts for just 2% of the global market.
Whether the Barilla product will succeed where others failed might depend on how it frames its competition. The company started by going after palm oil. Ferrero came under fire for using the ingredient, which many consumers – especially Italians –– consider unhealthy and an environmental hazard. Last year, Ferrero invested in an ad campaign maintaining it uses palm oil in a safe and sustainable way.
Barilla may attempt to spin its version as a healthier — but equally tasty and equally Italian — version of Nutella. Whether sugar free, vegan, or Fair Trade Certified, many other companies have tried to capture consumers by prioritizing natural or more sustainable ingredients. But consumers keep reaching for more jars of Nutella, despite the palm oil and refined sugars.
The Barilla spread includes sunflower oil instead of palm oil, less sugar, Italian-grown hazelnuts, and sustainable cocoa. Called Crema Pan di Stelle, the new chocolate spread draws its name from a popular cookie that Barilla makes. Familiarity with the cookies could encourage consumers to try the new product. But some say that boost could be limited to the Italian market. However, lack of familiarity didn't stop American consumers from loving spreads made from European spice cookies — speculoos or Biscoff.
In the United States, Barilla is a household name for its pastas, sauces, and frozen entrees — though the company has Europe-based cookie and biscuit brands. It may be a stretch for U.S. consumers to think of Barilla as a sweets company. Some well-known brands that have tried to overreach the product boundaries that consumers know have failed — like Colgate's attempt to enter the food business with a frozen lasagna in the 1980s. However, if the spread has attractive packaging and tastes good, consumers may not notice the brand until after they've tried the product.
Reaching the level of popularity and ubiquity that Nutella enjoys could require significant investment. The new product could hit shelves in Italy as soon as January. And even if the spread is only sold in Europe, it will be difficult for consumers there to give up their favorite spread for a newcomer.