Fifty years ago this year, one of the most delicious substances on the face of our planet was invented in the back room of an Italian bakery: Nutella. Half a century after its creation, the world's insatiable appetite for the sweet, spreadable brown heaven continues to grow. Nutella fans are hardcore. Its Facebook page has more than 26 million 'likes' and people devoured an arse-wobbling 365,000 tons of the stuff in 160 countries last year. Once you go brown, it seems, there's no going back.
Ask any one of the 11 million people who buy a jar of it each year in the UK and they'll tell you: You don't just like Nutella, you need it. I'm a proud addict. Yes, I have the ability to ration myself, and yes, I might have to haul my carcass outside and run a couple of laps of the park to burn off a couple of teaspoons of it (each packs a handsome 100 calories a pop), but I can't and won't quit. I spread Nutella on crackers, bananas, apples, and god knows what else (P.S. Nutella on celery tastes like shit), but my favorite vehicle is just a few fingers dipped in the jar followed by a good, drawn-out three minutes spent licking it off gently. I'm a Nutella pervert.
If NAA (Nutella Addicts Anonymous) meetings existed, I'd be a regular. But I'd be sure to carry a little packet of it—the kind you get in any hotel worth its salt—in my pocket to lick on my way home. I'm not alone in my addiction either. I scoured blogs and forums trying to meet people like me to talk to, and came across "April" (she wants to stay anonymous, "for fear of annoying my fiancée even more than I already do"), who was more than happy to discuss our mutual, tooth-rotting affliction over Skype on a rainy Sunday evening.
Hi April! Isn't it a nightmare being addicted to something that's so bad for you? It fucking sucks. I lie in bed at night knowing it's in the cupboard and literally hallucinate how it tastes and feels in my mouth.
Wow. Yeah. My fiancée gets so pissed off with me. Like, when we're walking around the supermarket and I put it in the basket, he tuts and shakes his head, like he seriously, fundamentally disapproves of me as a human being. But I'm like, I don't smoke, I hardly drink, I exercise, give me a fucking break already.
I'm the same. I don't drink, I run a lot, and knowing that there's a jar of Nutella waiting for me at home after a hard day brings me incredible inner peace. Right? It's like a comfort blanket or something. Why is that?
I think it probably has something to do with the fact that it has a 56.7 percent sugar content. Sugar is pure comfort, isn't it? I guess so. But I don't eat enough of it for it to be, like, a whole chocolate bar's worth of chocolate. It's more psychological than that. On any given night I probably eat two teaspoons of it, spread as thinly as possible over some crisp breads or water crackers, so it's not that my body craves whatever is in it. I think I just crave the sweet, nutty familiarity of it.
Me too. As soon as I smell it I'm immediately in my PJs, sitting in front of Saturday morning cartoons with a glass of cold milk to dip my Nutella toast into. Aw, cute! For me it's coming home from school and sticking my chubby-ass fingers in the pot and running up the stairs licking it off before changing out my school clothes and going outside to play. It was like I needed it to change from the quiet, mousy, studious school me into a confident, hilarious child who could impress the cute boy living a few houses down. I needed a hit, a pep, and Nutella provided it. Nowadays, it's more of a comfort. I guess because it reminds me of youth so much on a really subconscious level.
Nutella got into hot water with the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency) a few years ago when it implied that each (400g) jar contained 52 hazelnuts, skimmed milk, cocoa powder and nothing else, and basically suggested it was healthy. Did that bother you? I didn't pay attention to that, to be honest. I don't give a shit what's in it.
Really? I have a hard time with the 20% palm oil thing. Thought not enough to make me stop eating it, obviously. I didn't even know it had palm oil in it. Shit, dude! I never even look at the label. I mean, you can judge how shitty it is for you based on how sweet and fatty it tastes. It coats your mouth like a sugary oil paint.
Bliss. I see it the same as anything you eat that's bad for you, though—you know it's bad, so you just don't eat shitloads of it. You don't put a delicious french fry in your mouth and think, "God, this is some holy shit," do you? You know it's gonna make you fat if you eat them every day. So you don't. You control yourself.
Have you ever lost the plot and had a massive Nutella binge? Uh…. Yeah. I was working late one night and came home around midnight, having had no dinner, and put around three quarters of a jar to bed in one sitting.
What was your vehicle? Four slices of toast, I think.
Wonderful. Have you ever seen Nigella Lawson's recipe for Nutella cheesecake? If I ever made it I think I'd need to have the emergency services on standby. Holy shit, no. I'm gonna Google now [*Skype line goes deathly silent]. Oh man. Oh. OH.
Are you having an orgasm? Pretty much! Oh lord, I can never, ever make that. I think my fiancée would take his ring back—shit would not be pretty.
Why does it have this hold on us, April? People don't get like this about peanut butter, do they? The only obsession I know people have with peanut butter is watching peanut butter fart videos.
Oh, Jesus. Yeah, anyway, I don't know what it is. I'm sure there's a really strong psychological explanation for why anyone craves certain foods—ones that bring comfort, or whatever, and I'm sure there's a really strong nutritionist's argument for craving a sugary, fatty hit when we feel low, emotional, or needy.
Sugary, fatty things give you an instant spike of energy, don't they? Yeah, completely. But another of my favorite things is eating Nutella before bed. I'm a 34-year-old woman but eating a little bit of Nutella at 11 PM is literally like turning a gentle night light on, or having my mom reading me a bedtime story. So how do you explain that?
I have no idea. Let's just agree that Nutella is bigger than all of us. Cool.