Nutella should consider customers’ health concerns


By Kristen Harris

Do you remember when the World Health Organization released its 2015 report linking red meat and cancer? The latest food that science has discovered can kill you, according to the European Food Safety Authority, is Nutella.

It’s not the Nutella itself that’s going to kick the bucket for you, though. According to the BBC, the UK study that came out last May found that palm oil, a main component in the magic potion that is Nutella, “contains particularly high levels of contaminants, when heated about 200 degrees Celsius.”

However, the report did not say that we should stop eating palm oil. Instead, the EFSA decided that more research was needed.

The viral heartbreak among Nutella fans came when the largest Italian supermarket chain pulled the Holy Grail from its shelves.

I, for one, was among those whose jaw hit the floor at the thought of never tasting Nutella again. I have a weird passion for Nutella (then again, who doesn’t). Remember when Hostess was going to stop selling Twinkies, and America had a complete meltdown?

That’s how I feel about this Nutella situation.

The people at Ferrero insist that there’s nothing wrong with their beloved hazelnut spread. In defense of the company’s use of palm oil, spokesperson Vincenzo Tapella told Reuters, “Making Nutella without palm oil would produce an inferior substitute for the real product, it would be a step backward.”

This comment got me thinking. I bake a lot, and because of certain allergies in my household, I’ve learned a lot about finding substitutes for otherwise harmful ingredients. I thought that surely, if you can make brownies out of black beans, then there’s a viable substitute for palm oil out there somewhere.

According to Bakerpedia, palm oil is often used as a substitute for shortening or margarine. Nutella already contains milk, so using a margarine or butter to replace the palm oil wouldn’t affect any dairy allergy concerns. There are plenty of vegan butter recipes available as well, so if they were to replace certain ingredients, Nutella could open up to a whole new market of customers with dietary concerns.

Reuters estimated that switching from palm oil to another kind of vegetable oil would cost Ferrero an extra $8-22 million a year. However, by adjusting its Nutella recipe to fit the needs and concerns of its customers, I think that Ferrero would probably make more money than it’s going to lose after this viral situation.

It could even be a repeat of the Chicago Tylenol murders of 1982 when the Tylenol company pulled all of its products and redesigned its packaging and its product to prevent criminals from tampering with shelved products again.

This complete change from capsules to pills changed the way over-the-counter medication is sold.

If Ferrero decides to remove the palm oil from Nutella, then they could potentially change the way other foods, such as peanut butter and noodles, are processed. This time around, the company could save lives before they have the chance to be taken away.

Maybe this is just wistful thinking, but Nutella is pretty good at making its customers happy. Imagine if it changed the food industry as well.


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