This year, Valentine’s Day ended on a truly sour note. Not because I spent it alone on my couch with my faithful lover, Netflix, or even because I realized after the supermarket had closed that there was not a single piece of chocolate in my entire house. On February 14, we lost the real life Willy Wonka of our generation: Michele Ferrero.
In the 89 years that he graced this Earth, the Italian candy maker pioneered iconic confections such as Ferrero Rocher, Kinder eggs (which were so revolutionary that they were banned in the U.S.) and even Tic Tacs. But most importantly, Michele Ferrero gave us the chocolate-hazelnut spread of the gods, Nutella.
During World War II, a European blockade on commerce led to the skyrocketing price of cocoa—everyone’s absolute worst nightmare. In a stroke of brilliance that changed all our lives forever, one humble Italian chocolatier named Pietro Ferrero decided to stretch his meager supply of cocoa by combining it with hazelnuts. We can thank our pals Napoleon and Hitler for that one.
Pietro’s son, Michele, soon took over and eventually ushered the chocolate hazelnut phenomenon into international markets, and eventually into each of our homes and dorms. We put Nutella in, on and around everything: toast, pretzels, fruit, spoons, our fingers, the floor when we accidentally knock over the jar we keep on our bedside table. We have dedicated an entire day to celebrating its chocolatey goodness.
Thanks to Michele, we live, breathe and worship Nutella. The chocolate-hazelnut spread runs through our veins. And we will go to any length to acquire it.
In 2013, the spread incited a German heist involving 5.5 metric tons and $20,000 worth of stolen Nutella. Closer to home, Columbia University’s “Nutella-gate” revealed that colleges are even willing to dedicate $6,000 per week to placate its students’ daily 100-pound consumption rate. Nutella has inspired a number of rival knockoffs, none of which can compete with the original.
So move over, crack cocaine: the only addictive substance we need is Nutella.
Thanks to Nutella and his other creations, Ferrero’s business flourished so quickly and effectively that he became Italy’s richest man and the world’s wealthiest candy maker. He kept the business in his family and led with a quiet but forceful chocolate fist. The Italian President himself called Ferrero a “born entrepreneur.” At the time of his death, which occurred in his Monaco home after months of illness, his company was bringing in $9 billion in revenue.
So grab your spoon and your jar and dig in. Somewhere in heaven, atop a throne made of hazelnut and chocolate, Michele Ferrero is looking down upon a sea of his Nutella-crazed disciples and smiling. R.I.P.
Here’s how to get your Nutella fix in honor of Michele Ferrero: