Beginning in 1942 in a small workshop in the city of Alba, Pietro Ferrero had a dream. He wanted to sell high quality chocolate, that could be accessible to all.
Ferrero’s most lucrative venture was of course Nutella. Originally invented out of necessity during the war, it has become a staple of Western culture. Walk into any supermarket and you will find many variations of Nutella, knockoffs, rip offs, similar products and packing that demonstrate the age-old adage that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. During world war II Pietro Ferroro was faced with a shortage of ingredients. So he used hazelnuts to create a chocolate flavoured spread that he originally called SuperCreama, which later became nutella from the Italian word ella meaning sweet.
The company is equally well-known for the world’s second largest brand of chocolate, Ferrero Rocher, which took the world by storm and continues to be one of the most beloved chocolates in the world. The brand is quintessentially Italian, not just founded and based in Italy, but Ferrero Rocher embodies the greatest of all Italian values; class.
In 1956, having enjoyed great success in Italy, Ferrero branched out to Germany, closely followed by another factory in France. By 1982 it was beloved by many across the entire Europe and England. The luxurious air lent by the packaging and the clever advertising meant that Ferrero Rocher had an air of sophistication about them. They weren’t just a box of delicious chocolates. They were a status symbol.
In 1988, Ferrero Rocher took America by storm, launching a series of adverts that had an interesting side effect. It became a status symbol, a currency of sorts for new American immigrants in the 80’s and 90’s. Boxes were gifted and an orb or two of the golden wrapped goodies was enough to earn you everlasting friendship.
Nutty, soft balls of deliciousness covered in succulent chocolate and wrapped in gold foil, Ferrero Rocher chocolates are the makers of nutella and the owners of a surprisingly large number of confectionary treats.
It is said that Pietro and his son Michele based their design for the Ferrero Rocher packaging on Michele’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. A devout Catholic, the inspiration for Michele’s design was revealed after his death at the age of 89, valentines day 2015, to be the Roc de Massabielle. The spherical dome structure represents the Roc de Massabielle, the dome shaped building where saint bernadette claimed to have been visited by the lady mary.
How did Ferrero Rocher become so successful? Great marketing. Although they presented themselves as a luxury item, they sold their wares everywhere, included discount supermarkets, setting themselves up as a luxury - that even you, can access.
On the path to international chocolate domination, Ferrero opened plants and production center in every country they could; in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. They imported to the Romanians, Yemenis, Indians, Armenians, Lebanese, Chinese, Nigerians and many others who saw the chocolates foreign luxuries with an air of Italian class and sophistication with Western indulgence.
In Hong Kong, the chocolates are known as “gold sand”. Hong Kong business men brought them into mainland China as gifts, further prolificating the reach of Ferrero Rocher. The chocolates would often be smuggled into China so as to escape the trading laws and delight family members with the treats. In some places in China and Hong Kong, they were even used as bribes! When they were allowed to be imported into China in 2007, they were knocked off by several different factories within weeks, one of which was recently ordered to pay the Italian brand $43,000 in damages.
Ferrero acquired Nestle for 2.8 billion recently, and Fannie May Confections for $111 million last year. They turn over billions of profit a year, with the current owners worth $37 million.
Did Pietro and Michele realise what they had started back in 1942? Perhaps. They were just trying to create the best chocolate that they could, but they were also shrewd business men. Either way, the success of the brand is due to the decadent, delicious taste in every bite.