Not many foods inspire a fandom quite like Nutella.
McDonald’s restaurants in Italy serve it on hamburger buns. Lifestyle websites cheekily offer lists of “signs you’re addicted to Nutella.” And at least one German soccer team dropped a player who couldn’t stop eating it.
Yes, a legion of snackers live for the hazelnut spread. And they’re not happy.
Nutella confirmed on its Twitter feed Wednesday that the recipe “underwent a fine-tuning” after Germany’s Hamburg Consumer Protection Center said on Facebook that it appeared the recipe had changed.
That set off both panic and anger on social media in a symphony of languages - English, German and Italian chief among them.
“Real cool,” wrote one user, adding, “why not draw a mustache on the Mona Lisa too?”
“OMG!! They are changing the recipe of #Nutella !!! NOOOOOOOO HOW DARE THEY!! Leave the sugar & coco alone!!!” wrote one slightly more impassioned user. The tweet also included five angry-face emoji, two screaming emoji, two disappointed-face emoji and three crying emoji.
It even spawned the hashtag #NutellaGate.
Ferrero, the Italian company that makes Nutella, Tic Tacs and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, insisted that “the quality . . . and all other aspects of Nutella remain the same,” in a statement obtained by the BBC.
The changes are to its milk and sugar content. The new recipe has 8.7 percent powdered skim milk, instead of 7.5 percent. It also contains 56.3 percent sugar, instead of the previous 55.9 percent, the Hamburg Consumer Protection Center said, according to Deutsche Welle.
“As the color of the new Nutella is lighter, we are working on the assumption that skimmed milk powder was added at the expense of cacao,” the center said, although Ferrero did not confirm this.
The outcry is slightly ironic when considering the candy’s history. Nutella was created by an altered recipe for a chocolate spread.
It was invented by Italian chef Pietro Ferrero after World War II out of necessity, according to the BBC. Cocoa was hard to come by in postwar Italy. In an attempt to make a chocolate paste without much chocolate, he decided to stretch a little bit of cocoa a long way with hazelnuts. He shaped this into a loaf he called “Giandujot,” after a carnival character.
Thus, the hazelnut-chocolate spread was born. Years later, Ferrero’s son Michele would tweak the recipe and rename it “Nutella,” and it became a worldwide sensation.
Over the years, it attracted an army of imitators, from large brands such as Jif, Hershey and Kroger - but fans always came back to the original.
In the past five years, Nutella sales are up 39 percent in the United States, despite nutritional concerns. For years, Ferrero has been petitioning the Food and Drug Administration to change the serving size on its labels by cutting it in half. A smaller serving size would show fewer calories, and it “might make people more likely to grab a jar from supermarket shelves,” as CNN put it.
The reaction to the recipe change brings to mind the outcry when U.S.-based Mondelez International spaced out the triangular chocolate pieces on its beloved Toblerone bars.
Fans called the move “underhanded” and “dreadful.” Meanwhile, enough people blamed Brexit for the change that a Mondelez spokesman had to tell the BBC, “This change wasn’t done as a result of Brexit.”