Photo credit: Getty
Before 1983, the sight of Nutella smeared on a crepe or slice of white bread usually meant you were in Europe. That was the year that Italian producer Ferrero Rocher began exporting the chocolate-hazelnut spread to the United States. But it wouldn’t truly catch on stateside until more than two decades later.
In the last five years alone, U.S. sales of Nutella have tripled to more than $240 million. The sweet spread captured American tastebuds not only with its rich, unctuous flavor, but with its novelty; until relatively recently, few products boasted a similar flavor profile.
But the success of Nutella has lured other chocolate-hazelnut spreads to the U.S. market. Hershey released its own version just this past week, Jif debuted one in 2012, and organic versions abound, including spreads by Barefoot & Chocolate and Justin’s (technically a nut butter).
But how do these competitors stack up to the original? We conducted a blind taste test among seven Nutella-loving employees to find out.
Photo credit: Hershey’s
Hershey’s chocolate-hazelnut spread had a thick, matte-like appearance. A dollop kept its firm form on a paper plate; it did not slowly melt into a chocolatey puddle like the others. Its mouthfeel was distinctly grainy, as though our tongues could feel each granule of sugar. The dominant flavor was chocolate, with just the faintest whiff of hazelnut. And it was overwhelmingly sweet. “Cake frosting,” “chocolate icing,” and “Dunkaroos frosting” were common descriptors.
Photo credit: The J.M. Smucker Company
More than one person mistook this spread for the Nutella, which was intended as a compliment. Indeed, this spread came closest to the real deal in flavor, texture, and smell. But some thought something was slightly off; its scent was too perfumed, the hazelnut flavor was slightly too pronounced, and its texture was a touch too thick.
Photo credit: Justin’s
Justin’s chocolate-hazelnut butter was, far and away, our least favorite of the five spreads. It wasn’t very sweet, and its chocolate flavors were sadly overwhelmed by hazelnut. With its greasy shine and gluey consistency, it conjured comparisons to industrial sludge. The paper plate it sat upon was sopped through with oil by the end of our taste test.
Most off-putting was its underlying stale note, a deal-breaker. The spread tasted as if the jar had been sitting in a warehouse for six months—a troubling scenario for a product made without any preservatives.
Barefoot & Chocolate
Photo credit: Barefoot & Chocolate
Most tasters easily detected that this spread was organic. “Oh, this is definitely healthier,” one said. “This is the one your mom tricks you into eating.”
Like Justin’s, the Barefoot & Chocolate spread had a gloopy texture. But it didn’t have nearly as bright a sheen, and the stale flavors picked up by some were far less pronounced. At least one person proclaimed it was their favorite of the five. But most were indifferent to it, at best.
Photo credit: Ferrero Rocher
Six out of seven tasters immediately recognized this spread as Nutella. There was no fooling them. To quote our tasters: “Def Nutella. Clean flavor.” “This one’s the best. It tastes like Nutella.” “The best… Nutella?”
There’s a reason this spread is raking in the big bucks. Often imitated but never duplicated, Nutella is our favorite even when we don’t know it’s Nutella.