MILAN (REUTERS) – The spread of chocolate Nutella has pride in supermarket shelves, but faces an imminent attack by an Italian rival who is usually in the pasta department.
Barilla of Italy, known internationally for spaghetti and sticks packed in blue boxes, is preparing to launch an expansion of chocolate next year to a major brand challenge that became a global phenomenon in the 1980s.
Nutella, invented by the family-run Ferrero, is one of the favorites among small dentists at home and abroad and generates annual sales of more than 2 billion euros ($ 3.33 billion).
With 54% of the global market for chocolate spreads, Nutella is the leader and does not really face significant competition as a marketed brand.
Cokokrem of Turkey's Yildiz Holding is the second most popular disperse with a share of only 2%, according to Euromonitor International.
But two sources familiar with Barilla's plan say that his new succession, Crema Pan di Stelle, seeks to exploit the weakness of Nutella: the use of palm oil.
The ingredient has caused a reaction from consumers because of health and environmental concerns. Ferrero launched an advertising campaign in 2016 to defend the use of palm oil, saying it was safe when it was refined at controlled temperatures and that the company only bought oil from viable palm plantations.
Barilla decided to face a challenge for Nutella after realizing that Ferrero had begun to crack the smallest known pasta maker's cookie, according to one source.
According to industry sources, Ferrero will launch the Nutella cookie next year, which is considered a direct challenge for Barilla chocolate biscuit Baiocchi.
Ferrero declined to comment on the new cookie.
To take over Nutella, Barilla has prepared a recipe containing sunflower oil, 10 percent less sugar, Italian hazelnuts and cocoa from viable farms, according to one source.
Barilla, also a family business, showed its spread to buyers in large supermarket chains and could only start it in January in Italy, according to sources.
Nevertheless, it faces a difficult challenge.
An industry expert said it could cost several million euros only to secure a place on the same supermarket shelves as Nutella, which orders a top spot in the eyes.
"Crema Pan di Stelle will increase competition for Nutella in Italy thanks to its brand name recognition to domestic customers but Barilla will have difficulty tackling the challenge abroad," said Marco Eccheli, director of the Italian consulting firm AlixPartners.
Communicating with a comment, Barilla said she would answer questions about new products in the coming weeks.
The name Crema Pan di Stelle comes from another of Barilla's successful cookies, the Pan di Stelle or the "bread of the stars", which is mainly sold in Italy.
"It will contain crushed Pan di Stelle biscuits to make it crisp," the source said.