At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Pietro Ferrero - baker and chocolatier

Humble beginnings of €20 billion company


Pietro Ferrero was the founder of the Ferrero brand
Pietro Ferrero
Pietro Ferrero, the founder of the Ferrero chocolate and confectionery company, was born in Farigliano, a small town in Piedmont, on this day in 1898.

A baker by profession, he moved to nearby Alba in 1926 with his wife and young son, Michele, before deciding to try his luck in Turin, where in 1940 he opened a large pastry shop in Via Sant’Anselmo.

Trading conditions were tough, however, and the business was not a success.  The family returned to Alba in 1942, setting up a smaller bakery in Via Rattazzi, at the back of which Pietro created a kind of confectionery laboratory.

He had hit upon the idea of trying to find alternative materials from which to make products, largely because the high taxes on cocoa beans meant conventional chocolate-based pastries were expensive to make.

Hazelnuts, on the other hand, were plentiful, Piedmont being one of Italy’s major producers. One of his experiments involved combining Gianduja, a traditional Piedmontese hazelnut paste, with about 20 per cent chocolate. 

Pietro's original Giandujot hazelnut 'chocolate' bars
Pietro's original Giandujot
hazelnut 'chocolate' bars
Convinced his customers would like the taste, he began manufacturing bars of his chocolate-substitute on site at the bakery, selling it wrapped in foil under the name Pasta Gianduja and then Giandujot. It was popular as a sweet snack, often served in thin slices on bread.

Demand for the product increased rapidly, so much so that producing it by hand became impracticable. Together with his wife, Piera, Pietro founded the company Ferrero on May 14, 1946, built a factory in Alba on Via Vivaro and began to hire new workers.

Sadly, Pietro died in 1949 at the age of just 50, not realising his company would grow in quite the way it did.

Sales soared after a creamy, spreadable version of Gianduja was produced in 1951 under the name Supercrema. This was the forerunner of Nutella, the chocolate-hazelnut spread invented by Pietro’s son, Michele, who inherited the business and turned it into one of the world’s biggest brands.

Under Michele’s astute management, the company expanded to produce a whole range of confectionary products, including Ferrero Rocher praline chocolates, the Kinder range of eggs and bars, Mon Cheri cherry liqueur chocolates and the espresso-filled Pocket Coffee chocolates.

Ferrero SpA produces 365,000 tons of Nutella each year
Ferrero SpA produces 365,000
 tons of Nutella each year
Today Ferrero sells more than 365,000 tons of Nutella every year, has 11 factories around the world, employs more than 33,000 people and the company is valued at around €20 billion ($23.72 billion).  Incredibly, the company uses 25 per cent of the entire global hazelnut crop n producing Nutella.

When he died in 2015, Michele Ferrero was the richest man in Italy according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index and the 20th richest person in the world, with a personal fortune of almost €15 billion.

Although it has offices in Luxembourg, Ferrero SpA remains a private company based in Alba and still, essentially, a family business.  Pietro’s grandson, Giovanni – son of Michele – is the current executive chairman.

The appointment earlier this year as chief executive of Lapo Civiletti, the company’s former head of operations in central and eastern Europe, was the first time a non-family member had filled such a high-ranking position in the company.

Alba's San Lorenzo cathedral
Alba's San Lorenzo cathedral
Travel tip:

Apart from Ferrero, the town of Alba – about 32km (20 miles) northeast of Farigliano and 60km (37 miles) southeast of Turin – is important for its production of truffles, peaches and wine.  The wines produced locally include Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Moscato. The town has a population of almost 32,000 and its historic centre, built on the site of the Roman city of Alba Pompeia, includes the Romanesque cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Gothic church of San Domenico.

Via Roma is one of Turin's main shopping streets
Via Roma is one of Turin's main shopping streets
Travel tip:

Via Sant’Anselmo, where Pietro Ferrero ran a pastry shop before moving to Alba, is one of the streets parallel with Turin railway station, south of Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. The city’s main shopping area is on the north side of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, around Via Roma, Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange and Via Carlo Alberto. Turin also has 19km (11 miles) of covered arcades and hosts more than 60 markets, including the largest open market in Europe at Porta Palazzo in Piazza della Repubblica.








   

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