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Battle of the biscuit giants: Barilla takes on Nutella with new ‘ethical’ chocolate spread

Italian biscuit-maker Barilla is taking on the might of Ferraro’s Nutella with its own ‘healthier’ and more 'ethical’ chocolate and hazelnut spread. It's a daunting challenge in Italy where Nutella has 88 percent of the market.

Battle of the biscuit giants: Barilla takes on Nutella with new 'ethical' chocolate spread
Photo: DepositPhotos

The new Pan di Stelle chocolate and hazelnut spread is named after Barilla's highly popular chocolate biscuits, which are scattered with tiny white stars.

The new product will be launched in January, crucially without palm oil as an ingredient, the company said in a press release.

Nutella is regularly attacked for its use of potentially environmentally destructive palm oil, although environment groups including the WWF and Greenpeace have said Ferrero's supply chain is sustainable.

Nevertheless, right now Nutella has almost total control of the Italian market and dominates 54 percent of the world market.

Its closest international rival is Cokokrem made by Turkey's Yildiz Holding with a puny two percent market share.

Analysts note that Barilla is touting its spread's use of locally sourced nuts, lower sugar content and cacao whose purchase supports development projects in Ivory Coast.

The company says its spread will contain 100% Italian hazelnuts, and cocoa purchased in line with the responsibility initiatives implemented by the Cocoa Horizons Foundation.

READ ALSO: Nutella makers admit changing formula of famous spread

Reuters reported last month that Barilla wants to hit back at domestic rival Ferrero, which makes Nutella and Ferrero Rocher pralines, irked by the confectioner's expanding biscuit range, including Nutella biscuits launched in early 2018.

“Nutella's market share (in Italy) has been decreasing over the last five years, as consumers gain interest in niche brands with more favourable ingredients and a relatable brand image that resonates with consumer values,” said Euromonitor food consultant Emil Fazira.

“Ethical living and healthy living are two megatrends that are increasingly shaping consumer choices,” Fazira told AFP.

But Nutella-loving consumers will want to know: does the Pan di Stelle spread taste as good?

We’ll have to wait until January to find out, though the company says the addition of its biscuit crumbs means the chocolate spread will have a ‘special texture’.

READ ALSO: Italy is looking for 60 Nutella tasters

FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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