Whether you’re a fan of the product or not, we as a society tend to refer to hazelnut cocoa spread as “Nutella” across the board. As popular as Nutella is, though, it’s not the only brand on the shelf. Hazelnut cocoa spread in general is like peanut butter’s cousin, the one who’s always doing just a little too much but is still fun to have around. It’s a bit more “luxury” than just peanut butter on bread, but at the same time it’s also just a spreadable product that comes in a little jar at the grocery store.
Hazelnut cocoa spread in the United States has inspired mixed emotions over the years. On one hand it’s been so popular it led to the opening of full-on hazelnut-focused establishments, including a cafe and hotel. On the other hand, haters gonna hate. A number of Takeout readers expressed their disdain for the stuff in 2019, specifically Nutella, with comments like, “It’s literally sugar and fat with the smallest amount of hazelnut flavor legally allowed so that they don’t have to call it what it is. Sugar spread.”
Nutella, the OG hazelnut cocoa spread, was widely popular in Europe before making its way over to the United States in 1983, reports The Daily Beast. The brand has had various spikes of popularity in both the United States and Europe. In fact, Nutella-crazed shoppers caused a riot in France in 2018 when the brand was on sale for 70% off. It’s safe to say the demand for hazelnut spreads is strong, and so I think it’s time we acknowledge the other brands out there.
For this taste test and ranking, I got my hands on classic Nutella, Target’s Good & Gather brand of hazelnut cocoa spread, Palermo’s Hazelnut Chocolate spread, and TBH hazelnut cocoa spread, a celebrity specialty brand from Stranger Things star Noah Schnapp. There are many more products on the market, of course, but this list represents a good range of cheap to “luxury” options. In an effort to make this as professional as possible, I conducted two separate taste tests, one without knowing which spread was which, and one that took the whole look of each spread into account.
The blind taste test
For this test, my lovely assistant (aka my boyfriend) lined up the jars of hazelnut cocoa spread and put a spoon in each one. I then turned my back and he handed me spoons in random order. I drank a bit of water in between spoonfuls to cleanse my palate.
I found myself focusing most on the consistency of the spread as well as how much “hazelnuttiness” I could taste in each sample. What turned out to be Good & Gather tasted more like chocolate than hazelnut and had a similar consistency to slightly melted cake frosting. TBH brand had much better consistency—it was thicker and felt closer to a spread while maintaining the right balance of hazelnut flavor to chocolate. Without being able to see the jars, I equated Nutella and TBH to each other and Palermo’s and Good & Gather to each other, though I wasn’t able to identify the exact brands by taste alone. Both Palermo’s and Good & Gather felt more oily in texture while TBH and Nutella were what I would expect from something similar to peanut butter.
Rankings in the blind taste test:
- Good & Gather
The visual test
The visual test was done to see if looking at the brand names would affect my opinion on the spread. Being that Nutella is the most well-known brand, I definitely wanted to see if that fact influenced my rankings. Turns out it did, but only a little bit. I could visually see that Nutella had a lighter color than the other brands and TBH seemed to have the darkest shade to it. I’m not sure if that says anything about the chocolate-to-Hazelnut ratio in the spreads, but I think the darker the spread, the richer the taste. I also did not like the fact that I could see a buildup of oil at the top of the Palermo spread even after mixing it around in the jar.
Rankings in the visual taste test:
- Good & Gather
Despite a range of color, consistency, and taste, all the spreads would make a decent snack on their own. None of them were inedible, though I wouldn’t recommend Palermo to anyone who truly loves Nutella. Nutella sets the standard, sort of like Heinz ketchup. Though it can’t be bought in grocery stores just yet (just online), TBH does give Nutella a run for its money, and I assume some other premium brands would, too.
What spread should I add to my shopping list next?