Can Ferrero Spa, the company behind Nutella, do it again?
For those of us who studied in Europe in the 1970s, and who discovered the delight of Nutella at breakfast after a much needed night of sleep at a hostel, Nutella isn't just a chocolate spread. It's a nostalgic return to the unamericanized Europe of our youth. It's an elan of discovery and innovation, a drug-like hit of mystery. How could anything taste that good? And how could our parents back home in the US not have told us about it before?
Italy today struggles with a so-called unemployment problem. The official stat is 40% unemployment for young people. But it's a false signal according to my Italian friends here in Alba, where I am now, not far from Nutella's headquarters.
"There are tons of jobs, but Italians don't want to do them." Italian employers can't find the mechanics, home healthcare workers, and software developers among its own population. Instead, it imports labor massively from the Ukraine, Romania and Macedonia.
The notoriously low Italian birth rate doesn't keep you from seeing lots of toddlers at the cafes and nursery schools that accompany the church and piazza in every town. That's because many of the kids belong to the new Italians, those same Eastern Europeans who came here to work.
Where was I? Oh yes, Nutella. The company has a new innovation, B-ready (pictured), and the Italians love to talk about it and for good reason. It's the best chocolate dessert I could have ever imagined.
It's still undergoing market testing, so you won't find it in the US or in many parts of Europe. Production is limited because, in the tradition of Fererro, the product needs perfection before scaling.
For me it tastes perfect, but my Italian friends who are 'in the know' - their daughter works at the factory- there are production issues with it. The two halves of the shell that enclose the nutella and nocelli are reported to not seal properly. So there is, according to rumor, an entire line of workers at the factory who do nothing but verify by hand that each bReady is prepared for proper sealing.
As a product developer, I love to hear this B-ready story. It's so painful to create something and find as you take it to market that bugs and scaling issues keep people from enjoying it. Those are the years of unappreciated toil during which those around you - your wife, your parents, your employees - question your sanity.
You're left alone. Any news, even a bug report, is a morsel of encouragement. If not for the fumes of possible failure and humiliation, you would just stop.
And then when everyone least expects it, you get that breakthrough. Kind of like starting a staffing company, no?