Nutella rival’s ‘more ethical and healthier positioning’ to attract repeat customers, predicts analyst

By Flora Southey contact

- Last updated on GMT

Barilla's Pan di Stelle chocolate hazelnut spread
Barilla's Pan di Stelle chocolate hazelnut spread

Related tags: Ferrero, Barilla, Spreads

Barilla’s chocolate hazelnut spread is palm oil-free, contains less saturated fat than Nutella, and according to Euromonitor analyst Emil Fazira, threatens Fererro’s stronghold in Italy’s bread spread market.

Barilla’s ‘Pan di Stelle’ is set to launch in Italy on January 19. The baked goods and pasta manufacturer lists hazelnuts, cocoa butter, eggs, emulsifier and wheat starch among the spread’s ingredients, and significantly, no palm oil.

In fact, the Italian food manufacturer has removed palm oil from all its products – 400 of which have been reformulated since 2010 to cut sugar, salt and fat.

“Palm oil is a saturated fat that is often hard to reconcile with a balanced diet, given its significant presence in a lot of food and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended intake,” ​said Barilla spokesperson Luca Di Leo.

(Image: Getty/yusnizam)

Replacing palm oil in Barilla’s products was a costly and complex process, Di Leo told FoodNavigator:   “During these years, thanks to its experts in food science/R&D, Barilla was able to find the right mix of ingredients and production means to ensure a really good product.”

The omission of this controversial ingredient, which is frequently associated with deforestation, biodiversity loss and climate change, sets ‘Pan di Stelle’ apart in Italy’s bread spread market, according to Euromonitor food and nutrition analyst Emil Fazira.

“People are just more conscious of palm oil and more sensitive about how much palm oil a particular brand or product contains,” ​Fazira told FoodNavigator.

Health and environmentally-conscious Nutella customers could ‘make the switch’ to Barilla’s new product, she continued.

“I also think Barilla might be successful in attracting repeat customers because of the more ethical and healthier positioning of its product.”

Value per 100 g

Barilla's Pan di Stelle spread

Fererro's Nutella









Saturated fat























Tapping into the ethical trend

A consumer-driven movement towards ethically-sourced products and ingredients has been observed across the western world, including in Mediterranean Europe.

“Ethical living is one of the major trends affecting spreads in Italy,” ​said Fazira.  “In the past few years, there has been a general movement towards niche and artisanal [brands]…people are more attracted to the more ethical factors of these brands, that are not [made]…by huge commercial companies,” ​explained Fazira.

Barilla appears aware of this trend. Pan di Stelle’s packaging aims to be more ‘eco-focused’ than some of its competitor products: “The jar is recyclable, with a unique aluminium lid to reduce the use of plastic and therefore the impact on the environment,” ​said Barilla’s Di Leo.

A known brand with a point of difference

Other factors that may attract Ferrero customers include Barilla’s history in the Italian market, and textural differences between the two chocolate hazelnut spreads.

“[Italian consumers] are already familiar with Barilla as a brand. They have a cookies line and obviously, [consumers] are already familiar with their pasta,” ​said Euromonitor’s Fazira.

“[In Italy], Barilla is already a local name, so I think many of them would want to try their new spread.”

Apart from being palm-oil free and containing less saturated fat than Nutella, Barilla has another unique point of difference: the presence of crumbs from the company’s Pan di Stelle biscuit range.

Barilla's Pan di Stelle biscuits

For consumers looking for a novel spread or a “difference experience”​, Barilla’s product could appeal, said Fazira. “It’s not only a chocolate spread, it also provides a bit of a crunch.”

Barilla’s Di Leo also pushed this point of difference: “The ‘Pan di Stelle’ cookie crumbs…endow the spread with a special texture and unprecedented goodness.” ​ 

Ferrero did not respond to a request for comment ahead of publication.

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