IMAGE: The classic Ferrero Rocher “Ambassador’s Party” ad.
“To put a hazelnut into every bonbon, Ferrero buys about a third of the world’s hazelnut supply.”
A third! That’s just one of the fascinating details in this Forbes profile of the Ferrero family, which also includes the business’s origins in ersatz wartime “chocolate.”* Founder Pietro’s first enterprise—selling biscuits to Italian troops stationed in East Africa—failed, so he returned home, settled in Alba, and began selling “a blend of molasses, hazelnut oil, coconut butter and a small amount of cocoa,” wrapped in wax paper and sold under the gianduia-adjacent name of Giandujot.
(Gianduja itself was created during an earlier war: in 1806, when the Napoleonic blockade of England limited the supply of cocoa to northern Italy, chocolatiers in Turin stretched their chocolate bars with up to thirty percent hazelnut paste, for a result that is, in my opinion, far more than the sum of its parts.)
In Mussolini’s chocolate-starved Italy Giandujot was, apparently, wildly popular, and the Ferrero family business has never looked back. Today’s CEO, Pietro’s grandson Giovanni—who has written a handful of romance novels, frequently set in Africa—is attempting to make the company into the world’s largest confectionery manufacturer from its current third place position. One of his first moves? Buying the world’s largest hazelnut producer, based in Trabzon (historic Trebizond), on Turkey’s Black Sea coast.
*Some might argue that Nutella, Ferrero Rocher, and Kinder bear a similar relationship to the real thing even today.