A culture of Nutella lovers the world over will no doubt be in mourning, as the Independent reports that the addictive paste’s creator, Michele Ferrero, has died at the age of 89. After falling ill several months ago, Ferrero passed away on Valentine’s Day at his home in Monte Carlo surrounded by his family.
As well as being the inventor of Nutella, Michele Ferrero and his empire defined the confectionery world with its Ferrero Rocher chocolate. The company was started by his father, Pietro Rocher. The Sydney Morning Herald says the empire grew from products which were made with hazelnuts in order to save money on chocolate, which was rationed during World War II.
Pietro began making Nutella in the 1940s after opening the company’s first chocolate factory in Alba. However, it was Michele — who took over the company after his father’s death in 1949 — who first got the idea of selling the ingredient as a spreadable paste. This became the famous Nutella spread that the world knows today. The first pot was sold in 1964 in Northwest Italy. An estimated 100 pounds of the spread is eaten by students on a daily basis, the Dining Services department states.
While Nutella and Ferrero Rocher are the two main products from the Italian family, Michele and co are also responsible for Tic Tacs and Kinder Surprise eggs, which were first introduced in 1968 and 1969, respectively.
Ferrero Rocher was created in 1982 and featured an advertising campaign that became so popular, its influence is still felt today and has invited parody in popular culture. The advert featured the gold-wrapped chocolate balls stacked into a neat pyramid shape and handed to ambassadors and foreign dignitaries.
In 2013, five tons of Nutella was stolen from a German factory without detection. The estimated value of the pilfered chocolate spread was estimated to be worth around $20,000.
Ferrero is one of Italy’s most successful companies and is said to be worth around $23.4 billion. The family were listed at number 30 on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest billionaires in 2014, with an annual turnover of over $11.61 billion. Forbes described Michele as “the richest candyman on the planet.”
Italian President Sergio Mattarella praised Michele’s contribution to Italy’s confectionery industry, referring to him as “always ahead of his time thanks to innovative products and his tenacious work and reserved character.”
As of today, more than 365,000 tons of Nutella is produced each year in its 11 factories, where it employs a total of 22,000 workers.
Mr. Nutella himself, Michele Ferrero, is survived by his wife, Maria, and son, Giovanni.