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How “Natural” Is Nutella?

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You’ve probably seen the commercial where the busy mother who needs “all the help she can get” praises the “hazelnut spread” with a “hint of cocoa” known as Nutella for helping her children choke down a horrific breakfast of buttered toast and waffles. Touting the delicious chocolate spread as “natural,” Nutella has recently come under fire – including a class-action lawsuit – for claiming the product is healthy and natural.

Nutella is many beautiful things. Combined with slices of fresh banana on a hot crepe from a Parisian street stand, it is one of the most delicious (and messy) dessert experiences in the world. Smeared onto a shortbread cookie and dipped in ice cream, it becomes a taste of pure heaven. Even eaten straight out of the jar, Nutella is quite delightful.

What Nutella is most certainly NOT is a healthy and natural breakfast item suited for kids. Instead of playing up its true positives – a rich and wonderful dessert treat to be enjoyed as such – the marketing geniuses behind Nutella decided to jump on the natural living bandwagon, nevermind the fact that the product’s top ingredient is sugar. Like a massive corporate hotel chain trying to market itself as “charming,” Nutella is trying to be everything to everyone and hop on the latest food fad – and now the company is getting sued.

What else is in Nutella? The ingredients list includes (in order): sugar, palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals whey (milk), lecithin as emulsifier (soy), vanillin (an artificial flavor).

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From the Organic Authority Files

Two tablespoons of Nutella deliver 200 calories, 12 grams of fat (including 4 grams of saturated fat), 2 grams of protein and a whopping 21 grams of sugar.

However, in Nutella’s commercials, the divine chocolate spread is flaunted as a wholesome blend of hazelnuts and skim milk with a “hint” of cocoa. Anyone who has ever eaten Nutella knows that it packs a whole lot more than a “touch” of chocolate. Its very existence is a flavorful ode to the cherished cocoa bean.

The manufacturers of Nutella have settled for $3 million in a class action lawsuit brought about by an angry mother who felt duped by the spread’s clever marketing campaign as a natural product with “no artificial colors or preservatives” – nevermind the artificial flavoring. Choosing their words carefully, Nutella is presented as a healthy and natural choice.

Despite this legal move and its recourse (a refund for people who bought Nutella between January 2008 and February 2012) the natural foods trend will continue to lure clever marketing campaigns to present their products as healthy and natural. It is up to the consumer – YOU – to educate yourself about the true ingredients of grocery products. It’s as simple as reading the label.

Many products commonly regarded as healthy actually have a false reputation. Have you read the label on your favorite orange juice, bottled tea, energy drink, granola or protein bar lately? Educate yourself and learn what you are putting in your body, and you won’t need a lawsuit to figure out that Nutella isn’t a health food.

Image: nemuneko jc

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