Some say you shouldn’t fix what’s not broken, but the spreadable chocolate industry begs to differ. We recently dug into the trend of single-origin chocolate, for example. Another part of chocolate’s continued evolution? Going from munchable to spreadable. Hello, Nutella alternatives!
Nutella is synonymous with spreadable chocolate. The delicious hazelnut spread has roots in Italy. According to The Food Channel, the company decided to boost its U.S. advertising back in 2011. And like a spark to a flame, the spreadable chocolate craze has, well, spread. In 2014, chocolate giant Hershey’s launched its own line of spreadable chocolate snacks, while the list of up-and-coming Nutella alternatives is growing.
A Nutella alternative might sound unnecessary at first, but consumers are growing increasingly wary of the snack due to its high sugar content. A jar of Nutella is over 50% sugar—a fact shared widely through a striking graphic showing the ingredients of Nutella in layers in the jar. (You can see it for yourself here.)
American Idol singer Kelly Clarkson was recently bombarded by online critics when she posted a picture of her daughter’s “first Nutella experience.” Some especially melodramatic trolls said she should be cited for child abuse—and it was just a bit of Nutella on a piece of toast! Regardless of whether you agree with the parenting police, it’s clear Nutella’s nutritional values (or lack thereof) has already seeped into public consciousness.
Hershey’s chocolate spreads aren’t any better; a 37 gram serving (about 2 Tablespoons) contains a whopping 19 grams of sugar (yep, that’s more than half sugar). But the name Hershey’s has always been associated with indulgence instead of health. No one’s ever mistakenly thought Twizzlers or Kit-Kats were good for you. A chocolate-hazelnut chocolate spread from Italy? A little less obvious.
And that’s where Nutella alternatives come in. Well, kind of. Another reason many shoppers turn their nose at Nutella is because the snack (like its Hershey’s competitor) isn’t vegan due to whey and milk ingredients.
Generally, though, packaging for Nutella alternatives has tended to focus on sugar content as opposed to vegan ingredients. The brand Justin’s—which first burst onto the scene with its vegan alternative to Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, now sold at Starbucks—also sells its own jars of chocolate hazelnut butter. While they’re vegan, the main messaging aimed at Nutella’s customers reads: “50% less sugar than the leading brand.”
Sugar grams are not overly advertised, as Justin’s also relies on sleek packaging design, but this verbiage is placed right next to the nutrition label, making it easy for consumers to see that Justin’s has dropped its sugar content from over 50% to just 25%. It will be interesting to see if such moves push Nutella to follow suit.
A more obvious dig at Nutella’s sugar-heavy formula comes from Go Lo Foods Dark Hazelnut Spread, which says in bold white letters on the jar: “100% less sugar than Nutella.” (The product does contain erythritol and chicory.) That math is pretty simple because…well…Go Lo’s product is, technically, sugar-free (erythritol is a sugar alcohol). Meanwhile, another obvious play on the Italian spreadable chocolate king comes from Rawtella, which—as the name and packaging make clear—is both raw and vegan. (The product contains coconut sugar.)
Considering the overall popularity of spreadable chocolate (and its flavorful variations), it’s no surprise that healthier, vegan alternatives are in-demand. But it’s also clear that criticism of Nutella’s nutrition is growing, meaning marketing strategies for spreadable chocolate will shift accordingly.