I’m a sucker for a bargain. Give me a few options that look equally decent and I will nearly always pick the cheapest (unless I’m feeling like treating myself, that is). Generic products are my friend…usually. Sometimes, the store brand is virtually indistinguishable from its name brand counterpart (ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, mayonnaise). But other times generics let me down (cereals, sodas, peanut butter).
When Fia asked me to pick up a jar of Nutella on my way home from the gym this evening (it is World Nutella Day, after all), I was planning on buying the name brand. After all, I know what it tastes like (and I like it). But there were a few alternatives on the shelf, and I decided to do a little taste test instead. The one I ended up coming home with was Nature’s Place Hazelnut Spread (available at Hannaford), like so:
The package geek in me loved that this spread comes in a glass jar, rather than the now-all-too-common plastic tub. But that’s not really what matters, honestly (despite my preference). So, how does it stack up against that same venerable filling that’s found inside Ferrar Rocher chocolates? Honestly, not bad at all – but these are definitely not identical products, and you will have a preference for one or the other. Here’s how they compare:
- Thicker and glossier in appearance and texture
- The initial taste is intensely sweet, followed by fragrant hazelnut
- Takes a while to break down in your mouth, even when you move it around a lot – very pasty
Nature’s Place Hazelnut Spread
- Smoother and matte in appearance and texture
- The initial taste is of creamy dairy, with a strong sweetness and malty nuttiness following
- Breaks down very easily in your mouth
Right off the bat, Nutella is a much more strongly flavored spread. It’s sweeter, thicker, and has a lot more hazelnut flavor and aroma. The Nature’s Place spread is, in comparison, a lot milder. The hazelnut flavor is nearly lost, replaced by a more generic nuttiness. Nutella sometimes is so thick and sticky that I have difficulty getting it out of the crevices in my mouth. The Nature’s Place spread is the exact opposite – smoother, lighter, and very soft at body temperature. I also detected a slight staleness in the Nature’s Place version that wasn’t present in regular Nutella – but it was easy to miss.
So, what’s at work here?
Well, to answer that, we need to have a look at the ingredients for each spread.
Nutella: Sugar, Palm Oil, Hazelnuts, Cocoa, Skim Milk, Reduced Minerals Whey (milk), Lecithin As Emulsifier (soy), Vanillin: An Artificial Flavor
Nature’s Place Hazelnut Spread: Sugar, Vegetable Oil, Hazelnuts (13%), Fat Reduced Cocoa, Skimmed Milk Powder, Maltodextrin, Whey Powder (milk), Emulsifier: Soy Lecithin, Flavoring.
There’s our thickness difference right away: Nutella contains palm oil (which is semi-solid at room temperature) compared to Nature’s Place’s vegetable oil (which is liquid at room temperature). With regard to the flavor: Nutella contains actual skim milk, while Nature’s Place uses the powdered version – which I’ve often found has a more intense dairy flavor. But honestly, the ingredients are mostly in lock-step with each other, so what really makes the difference is the exact ratios and choice of ingredients.
Verdict: Nature’s Place Hazelnut Spread really doesn’t taste much like Nutella. It’s a pleasant spread for toast (or pancakes, which is what we ended up doing with it), but if you’re a big fan of the real deal you’ll probably find its mild flavor and generic nuttiness lacking. Personally, I didn’t mind it at all. But then again, I sometimes find Nutella to be a bit too intense and sickly sweet for my tastes. Still, when you’re shooting for a particular taste (and shelving the result alongside its name brand counterpart), I think it’s important to stick to the formula.
Score: 3 out of 5 Forks