SHOPPERS in Germany have to search hard to find peanut butter. Little jars of erdnuss creme, as it's called, warrant but a fraction of the supermarket shelf space that its competitors command. By far the best-selling kinds of sandwich spreads here are chocolate cream and chocolate cream with nuts - hazel nuts, usually.
In fact, Nutella, a chocolate-hazel-nut cream manufactured in Italy, Switzerland, France, and Australia, claims to be the No. 1 brand-name spread in the world. The combination, created by Pietro Ferrero in the cocoa-short Italy of 1946, outsells Jif and Skippy peanut butter combined, says Gary Foote, marketing director for Ferrero USA.
Everyone loves chocolate, it seems, and the Germans are no exception. But Germans also love hazel nuts - they eat more hazel nuts per capita than almost any other country in the world. It's no surprise they enjoy the combination.
Peanut butter has long had a small but loyal niche market in Germany, particularly in cities near American military bases. For years, though, it was simply accepted that most Germans do not like peanut butter.
One reason often told industry experts is that the United States Army gave its spoiled peanut butter to starving Germans after World War II. The Germans, so the story goes, have never gotten the rancid taste out of their mouths. More likely, it has simply taken time for Germans to develop a taste for peanuts, a crop not grown here.
Nutella, on the other hand, sees "a real potential in the Americas" for their product, says marketer Foote. They are opening a plant in Mexico.