2018.03.21 Odd chips span globe, fans riot for Nutella


Although it’s been on the market since the 1940s and in spread form since 1964, Nutella, that sweet combination of chocolate and hazelnuts, has never had a higher public profile than right now. Back in 2016, Krispy Kreme introduced a doughnut filled with the concoction, available on a limited-time-only basis. Initially, it could only be purchased from an ATM-like machine in London. Yes, a doughnut ATM. Eventually, regular locations in England carried it.

Last August, a 22-ton cargo of various chocolate products, much of it Nutella, was hijacked from a semi-trailer in Germany. Either it ended up on the black market, or the thief (or thieves) had one gigantic sweet tooth. 

Maybe they should have waited, as later in the year, it was reported that Nutella had changed the recipe to the formula used in Europe. Changed? Yes. To the possible joy of dentists everywhere, European Nutella is now more sugary than ever. And, in France at least, more popular than ever.

Earlier this year, French grocery chain Intermarche set off what many called “riots” after slashing the price of Nutella. With prices cut from their normal $5.60 to $1.75, fans stormed stores. One had a line of about 200 customers waiting for the doors to open. Limited to one jar per person, an entire pallet was emptied in 10 minutes.

At another store, an employee described the mob scene as “like an orgy.” Police were called to at least three stores to help with crowd control. Intermarche later said it was “surprised” at the chaos created.

I’m not sure why they were surprised. When Michele Ferrero, inventor of the spreadable form of the product  which originally came in a solid loaf wrapped in foil, passed away in 2015, it was reported Nutella was so popular that the company used 15 percent of the world supply of hazelnuts. These days, even that much isn’t enough.

Researchers at Rutgers University are hard at work trying to develop a blight-resistant hazelnut tree in an attempt to keep up with the demand for hazelnuts to make Nutella. Most hazelnuts in the U.S. are grown in Oregon. The folks at Rutgers are hoping the new tree will grow in New Jersey and other locations in the Northeast.

 If successful, the trees will be producing nuts in about a decade. In the meantime, if you find Nutella on sale, it might be wise to stock up. But no rioting, please.

If you strike out in your Nutella search, maybe it’s time to try some of the weird potato chips available. If nothing else, it will give you a chance to visit a new country or two. In a few cases, I think I’d prefer to visit the country and skip the chips.

Food Network Magazine recently ran a feature on some of the most popular chips from around the world. Some sound delicious. Some, not so much.

For example, there are Lay’s chips from two different countries in the article. From Turkey, a yogurt and herb variety sounds pretty good. It probably tastes like some sort of dip is already on the chip. That would save you from having to buy a separate container of dip.

The other Lay’s variety is from Thailand and is seaweed flavored. I’ve read some seaweed tastes like bacon. I have to believe it tastes better than Corker’s Pork Sausage and English Mustard chips, available in England. Or Mackie’s Haggis and Cracked Black Pepper chips from Scotland. The article defines haggis as “a savory pudding made from sheep organs.“ I guess savory now also means “gag-inducing.“

And then there’s Ireland, which has Guinness potato chips, flavored with the same hops and barley used to brew Guinness stout. Can you get drunk by eating Guinness potato chips? Maybe I can I look that up in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Spain has Quillo fried egg flavored chips, said to be quite popular. I wouldn’t mind trying a bag of those. I’m also up for a bag of Krunch Fruit Chutney chips from South Africa. I’m not so sure about Old Dutch Ketchup chips from Canada, which the article calls a “classic snack in Canada.” But are they popular in the Netherlands?

Finally, there’s Sibell’s Truffle flavored chips from France. I have to admit, I have no desire to try fungi-flavored anything. I suspect others may share that sentiment, even in France. That’s probably why there are riots when they can get a good price on Nutella.