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How bad weather around the world is threatening Nutella

Eyes on the price. (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg News)

There's bad news for fans of Nutella, the chocolaty hazelnut spread.

Poor weather in Turkey, the world's largest producer of hazelnuts, is causing a major shortage of the nuts. The Turkish industry, which is responsible for growing some 70 percent of the world's hazelnuts— is facing what could be a hazelnut crop that's more than 30 percent below original expectations, according to the Guardian. As a result, the price of hazelnuts has spiked by more than 60 percent so far this year and more than doubled since last fall.

While rising hazelnut prices are likely to prove a nuisance for a number of global chocolate-makers, the most vulnerable appears to be Nutella-maker Ferrero group. That's because Ferrero now buys as much as a quarter of the world's hazelnuts, and relies heavily on Turkey to supply the 50 hazelnuts it takes to produce each 13 ounce jar of Nutella.

Nutella's global value chain, which the OECD mapped out last year, spans the entire globe. Ferrero might be headquartered in Italy, but it has factories on several continents, and sources its ingredients from several others. The hazelnuts it uses are, indeed, from Turkey, but the palm oil comes from Malaysia, and the cocoa is grown in Nigeria. 

The good news for Nutella lovers is that Ferrero acquired Turkish company Oltan Group, a leading manufacturer of Turkish hazelnuts. Having its hand in the cookie jar, so to speak, allows Ferrero to protect itself somewhat from market pressures, like the current hazelnut shortage. “Ferrero has protected itself from the supply issues to an extent,"  Julian Gale, the deputy editor of Foodnews, told Bloomberg.

The bad news is that the odds appear to be stacking up against the world's favorite hazelnut spread. Hazelnut prices aren't the only Nutella ingredient whose cost is on the rise. Palm oil, which is roughly 20 percent of the spread, has also been getting more expensive on the heels of rising demand and weather-dampened supply. So too has cocoa, another key ingredient—cocoa prices are up by more than 40 percent since last year.

None of this means there won't be enough Nutella to go around this year, or even next. Ferrero has yet to tweak the price or warn of an imminent adjustment. But if the circumstances in Turkey, Nigeria, and Southeast Asia persist, don't be surprised if the 250,000 tons of Nutella Ferrero sells in more than 75 countries around the world starts carrying a slightly higher sticker price.

Roberto A. Ferdman is a reporter for Wonkblog covering food, economics, immigration and other things. He was previously a staff writer at Quartz.



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