Scarcity can sometimes lead to success. Who hasn’t heard of Nutella, the hazelnut and chocolate spread invented by Pietro Ferrero, founder of the Ferrero Group. Thanks to Ferrero’s vision of producing an affordable sweet, Nutella was born.

Its initial format, however, differed greatly from what consumers are used to today. As Giovanni Ferrero, the company’s ceo and grandson of the founder, explained in a BBC News Magazine interview last year, his grandfather was obsessed with developing the perfect formula, often waking up his wife in the middle of the night to try his latest version.

Working off the famed gianduja confection, that well-known triangular piece of chocolate and hazelnut developed centuries earlier, Ferrero created Giandujot orPasta Gianduja, a hazelnut/chocolate log much stiffer than today’s Nutella. In doing so, he — together with his brother, Giovanni — simultaneously established the Ferrero Group. That year, he and his brother sold 300 kg of the specialty. Nine months later, the volume rose to 10 tons. Pietro continued to tweak the formula while Giovanni travelled across Italy in his Fiat selling the product.

By 1948, the company had moved into larger premises. The next year saw the launch of the “supercrema” version, which was smoother and stuck more to the bread than the knife. It was also the year Pietro died. 

Driven by the same obsession for greater spreadability as his father, Michele continued to tweak the formula, employing the latest technologies. Under his leadership Ferrero became an empire. During the next ten years, the company grew rapidly thanks to Michele’s entrepreneurial savvy.

With the company’s runaway success in Italy, Michele decided to open a number of production plants abroad. In 1956, a large-sized plant was inaugurated in Germany, soon followed by the opening of another in France. It was the prelude to Ferrero’s rapid expansion in Europe, with the construction of sales branches and production centers in Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden, the UK, Ireland and Spain.

In 1964, Nutella — as we know it today — was born. Coincidentally, so was Giovanni, the current ceo and Michele’s son. He referred to the product as “My little brother,” in the BBC News Magazine article, noting that he has fond memories of eating Nutella for breakfast as a child. He also allows his two sons to do likewise. Seems like he’s not the only one. The company now sells 365,000 tons of Nutella a year worldwide.

 Michele’s subsequent confectionery inventions, the Kinder Surprise, Ferrero Rocher, Mon Cheri, Tic Tac andRaffaello have helped establish the Ferrero Group as a leading global confectionery company.