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Nutella. Its that creamy, rich chocolate hazelnut spread that makes you want to gobble it up pronto. And like every successful franchise, the beginnings of Nutella were very humble. During the Second World War, Chocolate maker Ferrero faced a shortage of cocoa so to make do he introduced hazelnuts in to his recipe. Needless to say this flavor caught on and was refined in to the creamy goodness you eat today.
Now, the opposite is happening. The rest of the world might face a shortage of hazelnuts because of Nutella. You see most of the hazelnuts that Nutella uses are grown in one specific location, the rising steep slopes on the shores of the Black Sea in Turkey.
Karim Azzaoui, the Vice President of Sales for BALSU, USA which imports hazelnuts to America, says that the Turkish families that grow the nuts follow a very traditional way of life. They’ve been handpicking these nuts for 2000 years and, it seems, will continue to do so.
Now Nutella purchases a hundred thousand tonnes of hazelnuts every year, approximately a quarter of the world’s production, and that drives up the price. This year, due to a late frost in Turkey, the hazelnut blossoms froze and the price went up 60%. Now the race is on to find other places to grow this dry fruit. You’ll find farms in Chile and Australia and now, even in the Northeastern United States.
A disease called the Eastern Filbert Blight (EFB) would kill off the hazelnut crop in Northeastern USA, but scientists are quickly developing ways to counter that. Some efforts are bearing fruit (pun intended) at Rutgers University in a project headed by Thomas Molnar, a plant biologist. Molnar has set up projects in Canada and the US to breed EFB resistant strains of hazelnut crop.