Nutella has been on the U.S. market for more than 25 years and throughout that time it has been a widely celebrated Italian import. Recently, however, the classic chocolate and hazelnut spread has experienced a bit of a rebirth as healthy Nutella alternatives have emerged. That’s right: Nutella isn’t the only chocolate-hazelnut spread in town. Most of these new spreads promise a more natural, less sugar-loaded product; some are even organic, raw, or vegan. Of course, none of those qualities matter much if they can’t stand up to the famous original. We rounded up seven healthy Nutella alternatives and put them to a taste test. Read on for our review of each chocolate hazelnut spread, complete with tasting notes.
- 1. Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa & Milk
- 2. Askinosie Hey, Hey Hazelnut! Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
- 3. Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
- 4. Jem Hazelnut Raw Cacao Butter
- 5. Nutzo Paleo Chocolate Power Fuel Seven Nut & Seed Butter
- 8 palm oil free alternatives to your favourite products you can buy in the UK
- If you like hazelnut spread try …
- If you like peanut butter try …
- If you like chocolate try …
- If you use bar soap try …
- If you use laundry detergent try …
- If you eat bread try …
- If you wear lipstick try …
- If you like fruit mince pies try …
- Facing the facts about Nutella, palm oil & the environment
- What’s really in your jar of hazelnut chocolate spread?
1. Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread with Cocoa & Milk
Made using the Rigoni family recipe, this spread is certified organic, and made with all natural, raw ingredients. And if you’ve been looking for hazelnut spread without palm oil, you’ve found it. It’s also GMO-free. Our tasters described Nocciolata as “creamy,” “milky,” and “incredibly smooth.” We also found it had a perfect balance of chocolate to nut. This was one of the sweeter options, and deemed the most similar to Nutella.
BUY IT: Nocciolata Organic Hazelnut Spread, $11.07 on Amazon
2. Askinosie Hey, Hey Hazelnut! Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
This 2011 Silver Sofi Winner is made completely from scratch, and contains just four ingredients: hazelnuts (oil and butter), cocoa powder, organic cane sugar, and roasted cocoa nibs. Tasters found Askinosie’s spread to be thick and dense, but still easily spreadable. It won raves for its rich, chocolate flavor with slightly bitter notes. “This one was clearly made with high-quality chocolate,” noted one editor. Only one con was mentioned: “Could use a bit more hazelnut.” ($13 for one 6.5-ounce jar)
BUY IT: Askinosie Hey, Hey Hazelnut! Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, $13 at Askinosie.com
3. Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
This spread stands apart from the previous three, because it also contains almonds, which do make their presence known, but only subtly. Tasters pointed out that this spread is grainier than the others, but this was not a negative; in fact, many editors liked that about it. We also found it to be slightly less sweet with an earthier flavor than the other spreads. It also comes in handy single-serving squeeze packs for chocolate hazelnut spread on-the-go.
BUY IT: Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, $8.57 on Amazon
The following Nutella alternatives (listed in no particular order) were not among our top three picks, but each one has a number of attractive qualities and are definitely worth mentioning.
4. Jem Hazelnut Raw Cacao Butter
Raw, vegan, and certified organic, Jem’s take on Nutella is one of the more natural versions we tried. We found it had a nice chocolate-to-hazelnut flavor ratio, but could use a touch of salt to pull everything together. For more on Jem, check ouin-depth review.
BUY IT: Jem Hazelnut Raw Cacao Butter, $19.02 on Amazon
5. Nutzo Paleo Chocolate Power Fuel Seven Nut & Seed Butter
With an ingredient list that features peanuts, cashews, almonds, flax seeds, Brazil nuts, and sunflower seeds, along with dark chocolate, cane sugar, cocoa butter, and hazelnuts, Nutzo is in a class of its own. It’s also 100% organic, packed with protein and Omega-3s, and very low in sugar. We had a little trouble comparing Nutzo to the other chocolate-hazelnut spreads, but on its own, we found it incredibly nutty, rich and thick, and not at all sugar-y. Available in crunchy and smooth. ($14.99 for one 16-ounce jar)
8 palm oil free alternatives to your favourite products you can buy in the UK
In April last year, Iceland supermarkets announced they would be removing palm oil from all their own-brand products citing the devastating effects this oil has on the environment.
Palm oil is a vegetable oil derived from the fruit of oil palm trees which grow in tropical areas. It is found in a number of popular products like lipstick, peanut butter and chocolate.
Yet palm oil has been linked to the deforestation of Borneo’s forests and loss of habitat for many orangutans that call these forests home – which, according to saynotopalmoil.com, has resulted in the loss of over 50,000 orangutans.
Humans are consuming a whopping 50 million tonnes of palm oil each year and as long as there continues to be demand for the product, forests and habitats will continue to be destroyed. So lessen your impact on the environment a little and swap out some of your favourite products for the alternatives below.
If you like hazelnut spread try …
Venchi’s Suprema XV cocoa spread with extra virgin olive oil. One of these tubs may be a tad more expensive than other popular hazelnut spreads but it has less of an impact on the environment and tastes just as – if not more – delicious.
Venchi’s Suprema XV cocoa spread with extra virgin olive oil, £7.50. venchi.com/uk/
If you like peanut butter try …
Whole Earth Organic Smooth Palm Oil Free Peanut Butter. Like the name says, this peanut butter is palm oil free but without losing the peanut butter creaminess we all love.
Whole Earth Organic Smooth Palm Oil Free Peanut Butter, £2.50. sainsburys.co.uk/
If you like chocolate try …
Ombar raw chocolate bar. Before you let the word ‘raw’ put you off – as a certified chocoholic, I have tried these bars and prefer them to regular chocolate. They’re that good.
Try the Ombar 72 per cent cacao bar, £3.29. ombar.co.uk/
If you use bar soap try …
Movis soap from Lush. Movis is Lush’s first 100 per cent palm oil free soap and is made from extra virgin coconut and sunflower oil. The soap has its own delightfully intense smell – signature to all Lush products – and gently buffs and polishes skin.
Movis by Lush, £4.95 per 100g. uk.lush.com/
If you use laundry detergent try …
Ecoleaf Concentrated Non-Bio Washing Powder. This detergent is made from plant-derived ingredients which is gentle on your skin and kind to the earth and removes dirt without using harsh chemicals like parabens.
Ecoleaf Concentrated Non-Bio Washing Powder, £3.79. naturalcollection.com/
If you eat bread try …
Waitrose Love Life Farmhouse Batch Multiseed. Using rapeseed oil instead of palm oil, you won’t notice the difference yet you will make less of an environmental impact.
Waitrose Love Life Farmhouse Batch Multiseed, £1.45. ocado.com/
If you wear lipstick try …
Neek Lipsticks. Australian brand Neek has brought out a vegan sustainable range of lipsticks in eight different shades. The tubes are made from bamboo so they can also be composted once done.
Neek lipsticks, £15.99 each. neekskinorganics.com/uk/
If you like fruit mince pies try …
Palm oil free mince pies by Iceland
With Iceland supermarkets launching their palm oil ban, head chef Neil Nugent is working on redeveloping the entire range by the end of 2018. As part of this he has created a palm oil free fruit mince pie, you can watch the process in the video above.
Facing the facts about Nutella, palm oil & the environment
For as long as I can remember, Nutella was always a special snack. My family would usually have a jar on hand in our house, but it was typically saved for special occasions. As I got older and discovered that Nutella was served in many places around the world, and I was happy to have easier access to the delicious treat, rather than it being protected behind the cupboard and my mother’s watchful eye. However, after recently hearing assertions about the product that directly conflict with my values, I decided to research the sweet treat and its producer to uncover the facts about Nutella’s environmental impacts.
First, let’s take a look at what Nutella’s ingredients. There are only seven ingredients in the hazelnut spread, and all of which are relatively well-known, which makes consumers feel confident they are making a completely natural and healthy choice by avoiding myriad artificial enhancers and sweeteners that often are found in snack foods today.
Of course, the first ingredient of Nutella is sugar. Listed second is palm oil, followed by hazelnuts, cocoa, milk, lecithin (soy) and vanillin.
The most controversial ingredient in that list is the palm oil. Since ingredients are listed on labels in order of quantity, as Nutella’s second ingredient, palm oil is a large component to the hazelnut spread’s recipe.
Palm oil is extracted from the palm fruit, which grows on the African oil palm tree. It’s popular as a food ingredient due to its natural properties and versatility: It has a neutral odor and taste, is semi-solid at room temperature, and gives products a creamy, smooth texture.
Palm fruits are collected for production into palm oil in Jukwa Village in Ghana. (oneVillage Initiative/Creative Commons)
This is especially important for confectionary products like Nutella, because using palm oil avoids the use of the hydrogenation process, which creates unhealthy trans fats in products. Palm oil is also the most efficient oil, producing about 3.7 tons per hectare (or roughly 2.5 acres), whereas oil from soybeans, sunflowers, or rapeseeds produce much less. That 3.7 tons is equal to about 7,400 pounds – the equivalent weight of about two and a half Toyota Prius 4-door hatchbacks.
All of this means that palm oil is frequently a hidden, yet substantial, component in modern consumers’ lives. According to Rainforest Action Network, palm oil is found in about half of packaged products in our grocery stores. It can be found in foods ranging from ice cream to instant noodles and from donuts to potato chips.
Of course palm oil is not just used in food. It’s also found in multiple cosmetic products, such as lipstick and soaps.
As a result of its popularity, worldwide demand for palm oil is skyrocketing. This demand is convincing farmers in tropical climates – most notably Indonesia and Malaysia, where about 85% of the world’s palm oil is cultivated – to cut down rainforests and create palm oil plantations instead.
A oil palm grove in Malaysia, as seen in 2007. (Creative Commons)
And here’s where an oil palm grove used to stand in the Indonesian province of Riau (just south of Malaysia), in this image also from 2007. (Hayden/Creative Commons)
Not only does the destruction of rainforests release carbon dioxide emissions, but native peoples are being displaced for such plantations, and once functioning, these plantations are known to violate their workers’ human rights. To top it off, the biodiversity of these forests are being compromised, and orangutans and other species are becoming increasingly endangered from such vast deforestation.
Ferrero Corporation produces Nutella along with a variety of other products such as Kinder treats, Tic Tacs, and Ferrero Rocher chocolates. The company has been widely criticized for using palm oil in products, which continues to fuel the demand for palm oil plantations. In 2015, France’s minister of the environment made a bold statement, declaring that consumers should stop eating Nutella if they want to help save the rainforest.
The Ferrero Group responded by claiming it sources about 170,000 metric tons of palm oil annually, representing a mere 0.3 percent of the world’s 60 million metric tons of palm oil production (Casey). Due to such widespread criticism, Ferrero Group has been taking actions in many different ways to assure its customers the corporation is acting sustainably and responsibly.
As a first step, in 2005, Ferrero Group joined Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). RSPO is a non-profit organization uniting seven stakeholders from the palm oil industry to ensure certified palm oil is environmentally and socially sustainable. In 2013, Ferrero Group stated that all Nutella products contain 100% segregated RSPO certified palm oil, and are traceable back to the plantation and production line (“Only Sustainable Traceable Certified Palm Oil for Ferrero”). Ferrero Group also launched its 10-point Palm Oil Charter in 2013, yet another commitment to consumers that the palm oil used in Nutella does not contribute to deforestation, species extinction, greenhouse gas emissions, or human rights violations.
In order to implement the charter and to remain transparent about the process, Ferrero Group partnered with NGOs, one being The Forest Trust, which will monitor and publicly report the company’s performance every six months.
In 2015, Ferrero Group became a member of the Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG), which builds upon RSPO’s original commitments and standards. Ferrero Group is not only contributing to these polycentric efforts but the corporation is also becoming more transparent.
Nutella’s website contains significant information regarding palm oil: What it is, how palm oil is harvested, environmental allegations against the company, and frequently asked questions about the crucial ingredient.
The website also contains key numbers. Ferrero Group claims to have 99.5% traceability to the plantations and countries from which their palm oil comes. This number is more realistic than the 2013 claim of supposedly knowing where 100% of Ferrero Group’s palm oil is from. Additionally, the palm oil producing countries are listed: Peninsula Malaysia produces 75.87% of total volumes, Papua New Guinea produces 18.17%, Insular Malaysia produces 3.67%, Brazil produces 1.2%, Indonesia produces 0.91%, Guatemala produces 0.1%, and the Solomon Islands produce 0.08%. Finally, Ferrero Group also launched the “Fer-Way Project” in 2014, which supports the development of a corporate circular economy model.
Ferrero Group is clearly working to make the company appear to be sustainable and environmentally and socially conscious at the very least. In fact, Greenpeace actually came to the company’s defense after the French minister of the environment called for consumers to boycott Nutella products.
However, there is no easy answer in this situation. There are certainly improvements that could be made when it comes to the sustainability of the palm oil industry, which Ferrero Group seems to be leading. Roundtable groups may be hosted, but they are not the perfect solution.
Groups like RSPO involve many different stakeholders and since all regulations must be passed via consensus, the actual standards for certification are set low in order to keep all stakeholders on board. But large corporations like Ferrero hold the power to change the status quo of palm oil.
Harvesting palm oil in Ashanti, Ghana. (Mike Norton/Creative Commons)
So, where does the consumer go from here? There’s no perfect solution or easy answer. But consumers hold a significant amount of power in today’s day in age. Completely avoiding palm oil is not only practically impossible but could also be considered unsustainable as so many people depend on the industry for an income.
Perhaps a better response is to be aware of how many products palm oil is found in and attempt to minimize the use of such products, if possible. When purchasing products that contain palm oil, ensure the products is made by a company that is certified sustainable as a member of RSPO or another similar roundtable.
Vote with your dollar to show corporations that sustainability is a not just a choice but mandatory. This does not mean you need to swear off Nutella, but perhaps minimize how often you do indulge in the sweet snack, only saving it for special occasions. Maybe Mom always knew best.
What’s really in your jar of hazelnut chocolate spread?
Bulking up food products with cheaper filler ingredients in an attempt to keep down costs is nothing new. It even helped to bring about the development of Nutella, a chocolate hazelnut spread.
Mixing hazelnuts in with cocoa to make chocolate go further has been popular in Italy since the late 19th century when cocoa was scarce for a time, according to Niki Segnit’s book The Flavour Thesaurus. It was originally sold as a loaf called pasta gianduja until Ferrero created a creamier spread to be sold in jars. That chocolatey mix was the forerunner of the Nutella sold today.
Nutella achieved a level of online infamy in recent years when a photograph was published clearly showing the amount of sugar in each jar. It took up more than half the jar and was topped off with palm oil. The surprise was how little hazelnuts and cocoa there was in the mix.
Not much has changed.
Sugar is still the main ingredient and makes up more than 56 per cent of the paste. Hazelnuts make up just 13 per cent. Ferrero is the world’s largest hazelnut supplier and buys about a third of those grown, according to Forbes. Ferrero is investing in plantations in Australia, Europe and South America in a bid to increase yields and availability throughout the year, it has reported.
The other ingredients include palm oil, skimmed milk powder, fat-reduced cocoa, soya lecithin, as an emulsifier, and vanillin, a synthetic substitute for vanilla, which is increasingly expensive. It is very popular as a flavouring and a perfume in the food and cosmetics industries. Nutella highlights on the side that it is “free from artificial colours and preservatives” but does not mention flavourings.
Palm oil claim
Ferrero says all of the palm oil it uses in Nutella is sustainably and responsibly sourced. Assuming that is true, it is hard to understand why it does not mention so on the label. It also credits palm oil with creating the creamy taste.
Tesco does an almost identical spread, for about half the price. It has slightly less sugar at 53 per cent, but about the same amount of hazelnut and cocoa powder.
Tesco’s product also notes that it was “blended in Belgium for a deep, chocolatey flavour”. I’d love to know how the latitude or longitude of the factory that made the mixture affects the taste.
“Rich and nutty,” it also says, and indeed that does sound rich and rather nutty. I’d say the flavour has more to do with the added rapeseed oil, maltodextrin and flavouring.
With sugar so far out of favour, it is tempting to try brands that don’t have any, such as Kelkin’s more expensive chocolate and hazelnut spread. It has much of the same ingredients as the other two, but gets its sweetness from maltitol, which takes pole position on the list.
Maltitol is an artificial sweetener that is about 80 per cent as sweet as sucrose and leads to a slower rise in blood-sugar levels. Unfortunately as it is a polyol, overconsumption can lead to an upset tummy, particularly in children or the elderly. Although maltitol generally has far fewer calories than sugar, this paste still has quite a lot. Nutella and Tesco deem a serving to be a 15g tablespoon, adding up to about 80 calories each. Kelkin’s 20g serving adds up to 100 calories. So swapping out sugar does not result in much of a saving in this case, perhaps because it is bulked out with whey powder, unlike the others.
There are far more calories in a spoon of Gu, which is made in Germany for the British brand. It has no mention of serving size, but it adds up to about 120 calories in a 20g spoonful. That seems like a lot, but check out the ingredients and you will see why. This spread has almost three times as many hazelnuts as other brands. They top the list and make up 35 per cent of the ingredients. Nuts are high in calories, but also highly nutritious. The second ingredient is sugar, but the final paste is just 38 per cent sugar, which compares very favourably against other brands. There is no palm oil, either, as it has sunflower, coconut and shea oil, in addition to cocoa butter. It is not the cheapest but deserves to be more popular.
Although Nutella remains a favourite, these days supermarket shelves are heaving with jars of varying quality, with everything from M&M to Malteser spreads.
With their long lists of colours, additives and powders, they make the simple spreads look far more appetising.
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