What the 'great Nutella riots' of 2018 tell us about the French

The Local France
The Local France - [email protected]
What the 'great Nutella riots' of 2018 tell us about the French
Photo: AFP

What do the viral images of shoppers in France battling to get their hands on pots of Nutella tell us? Not only that the French are nuts for the spread but also that they can still surprise us...and even themselves.


France's love affair with the Italian chocolate hazelnut spread Nutella is well-known and if anyone was in any doubt the so-called "riots", as described by some French newspapers, seen at supermarkets across the country on Thursday proved it. 
And even though in reality it was more like a feeding frenzy than a riot, France's passion is in no doubt. 
In fact, according to some figures 26 percent of the world consumption of Nutella is done by the French even though the brand is Italian.
This means that around a whopping 75,000 tonnes of Nutella are consumed every year in France.
France's long love affair with the chocolate spread starts, for many, at childhood when it is the sweet and some say sickly breakfast of choice for many French school children.
And according to Paris food writer and author of the blog Chocolate & Zucchini Clotilde Dusoulier it could be this childhood link which is partly behind the France's love for Nutella. 
"French people eat it by the spoonful. I had it on toast for breakfast as a child," Dusoulier told The Local. "And like with candy, grownups continue to eat it to connect with their inner child."
The food writer also explained that the French have a tendency to turn to sweets in times of uncertainty. 
"Things are a bit better in France now but there's still a huge enthusiasm for pastry chefs" and "giving away this sweet childhood memory nearly for free is likely to bring up memories of sharing it with school friends, treats and other positive links," she said.
Whatever the reason, the scenes at Intermarche supermarkets in France on Thursday were reminiscent of Black Friday bonanzas in the US with customers jostling, scuffling and battling each other to get their hands on the chocolate.
"They are like animals. A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand. It was horrible," one customer at the Rive-de-Gier supermarket in central France told Le Progres newspaper. 
And many people took to Twitter to show surprise about where this frenzy was happening. 
Indeed one Twitter user dubbed it "Brown Thursday" (see below). 
Sophie Chevalier, a French anthropologist and specialist in customer behaviour, said the scenes were out of the ordinary.
“These are unusual in France, except when there’s a particularly exceptional sale, and more what we see in developing countries or where there’s a regular shortage of essential products,” Chevalier told Le Parisien.
“Would there be the same reaction to jars of pickles? Certainly not. It’s a question of the kind of product that explains this. Nutella is pure pleasure for children and to offer it at a bargain price obviously attracts lots of customers.”
Still, although it may seem bizarre to many, it's nice to know the French can still surprise us from time to time. 
Let's leave the final word with French President Emmanuel Macron:



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also