Nutella needs no introduction. There are probably enough Italophiles, college students and hazelnut lovers to lobby for classifying the chocolate-hazelnut spread as its own food group.
These days, though, it’s practically impossible to walk into a grocery store and not find other brands vying for attention. To see whether Nutella — which turns 50 this year — is holding its own, we conducted a blind taste test. Competitors included store brands, familiar labels such as Hershey’s and Jif, and domestic and imported products labeled spreads or butters and sold at supermarkets and specialty shops.
Food section staffers licked many small plastic spoons. Here are the results, listed in order of preference, including an averaged rating (on a scale of 1 to 5):
Azienda Agricola Nocciole d’Elite Crema di Nocciola: 4.4.
This Italian import was the uncontested winner — and by far the most expensive of the competitors. Although its consistency was thinner/runnier than most of us would have liked, it earned praise for its “pure hazelnut flavor,” prompting one judge to rejoice, “ding ding ding.” The mellow chocolate favor imparted by cocoa powder is a bit subdued, so chocoholics, keep that in mind. $21 for 8.8 ounces, or $2.39 per ounce; available at Dolcezza, 1704 Connecticut Ave. NW, 202-299-9116, plus three other locations of the gelato chain (call ahead to confirm availability).
Peccati di Ciacco Gianduia Chocolate Hazelnut Spread: 3.4.
Tasters detected hints of caramel and vanilla. Overall, “pretty sweet but good.” $10.99 for 7.76 ounces, or $1.42 per ounce; under the Ritrovo Selections importer label at A. Litteri, 517-519 Morse St. NE. 202-544-0183.
Ferrero brand Nutella (Italian label): 3.2.
The European Nutella prompted opposing opinions on a variety of counts, from “canned chocolate frosting flavor, with little hazelnuts” to “nice nutty beginning; not too sweet, really good.” $15.99 for 35 ounces, or 46 cents per ounce; at the Italian Store, 3123 Lee Hwy., Arlington. 703-528-6266.
Safeway Select Hazelnut Spread: 3.
This store brand delivered a respectable bang for the buck. “Pretty classic,” “pudding,” “balanced but not distinctive” and “the nut taste is fresh and good.” $3.79 for 13 ounces, or 29 cents per ounce.
Ferrero brand Nutella (domestic label): 2.6.
At least one taster correctly identified this as “what I grew up eating.” Another panned it as “way too sweet, teeth-achingly.” Other middle-of-the-road sentiments: “inoffensive,” “more chocolate than hazelnut; not too sweet but not delicious.” $4.99 for 13 ounces, or 38 cents per ounce. Widely available.
Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend: 2.6.
This product, available at Mom’s Organic Market, isn’t a Nutella wannabe, but we decided to include it anyway. Judges readily identified this as a nut butter and almost universally commented on its gritty texture and salty, hazelnut-light flavor. “I would eat this and not feel guilty about having dessert for breakfast,” one said. $10.99 for 16 ounces, or 69 cents per ounce; at Mom’s Organic Markets.
Rapunzel brand Organic Chocolate Hazelnut Butter: 2.4.
This one inspired wide-ranging reactions. Among them: “very nutty, dark, but did find a little grit”; “leaves a bad, bitter aftertaste”; “greasy mouth feel.” $7.49 for 8.8 ounces, or 85 cents per ounce; at Mom’s Organic Markets.
Rigoni di Asiago Nocciolata: 2.4.
Tasters mostly found the hazelnut flavor lacking in this Italian spread. Also: “Consistency’s winning, an aftertaste that’s bad”; “nicely balanced”; “more cocoa than chocolate.” $4.99 for 9.52 ounces, or 52 cents per ounce; at Mom’s and Wegmans.
Jif brand Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread : 2.
Maybe Jif should stick with peanut butter? “Harsh and sweet” and “distinctly lacking in hazelnut”; one praised “a rich chocolate flavor.” $4.19 for 13 ounces, or 32 cents per ounce. Widely available.
Wegmans brand Hazel‘Nuttin Chocolate Flavored Hazelnut Spread : 2.
“Gag,” “chemical-like” and “meh” were the harshest judgments; also, “lovely nuttiness” and a “good” balance. $2.99 for 13 ounces, or 23 cents per ounce.
Giant brand Hazelnut Spread With Cocoa: 1.6.
Part of a four-way tie for last. “Cloyingly sweet,” “bad chocolate, just nasty” and the nail in the coffin: “Detect practically zero hazelnut, right?” A few judges commented on an unpleasant aftertaste. $3.69 for 13 ounces, or 28 cents per ounce.
Natural Nectar ChocoDream Hazelnut Cocoa Spread: 1.6.
One tester compared this to “a bad doughnut glaze.” “Blech” and “too sweet.” An outlier observed a “stronger nut flavor.” $5.99 for 12.3 ounces, or 49 cents per ounce; at Whole Foods Markets.
Hershey’s Spreads, Chocolate With Hazelnut: 1.6.
“Fake chocolate tasting”; “where’s the hazelnut?”; “thick as paste.” $3.99 for 13 ounces, or 31 cents per ounce.
A Greek spread with disappointments that included “lackluster chocolate” and “faint” hazelnut flavor. One judge awarded it a 3, calling it “creamy, sweet, nutty, thin in texture, milk chocolate-like.” $9.95 for 35 ounces, or 28 cents per ounce; at the Mediterranean Way, 1717 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-560-5715.