Makers of Nutella invest in a more stable and sustainable future for Oregon’s hazelnut industry
By Siobhan Murray
Italian multinational company Ferrero, one of the largest confectionery producers in the world, has made more than $500,000 in gifts to the OSU Foundation in support of hazelnut research at Oregon State University. Makers of chocolate-hazelnut spread Nutella as well as Kinder and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, the company joins longstanding industry supporters who have made substantial contributions for OSU research focused on hazelnut health and production.
“OSU is already doing what needs to be done in terms of consistently investing in research, and we want to allow that research to continue,” said Tommaso De Gregorio, head of Ferrero’s Agri Competence Centre. “Hazelnuts of the highest quality are essential for our products, and Ferrero is committed to the sustainability of hazelnut production, both in terms of environmental stewardship and economic growth for farmers. We hope our support will lead to more stability in sourcing quality hazelnuts from different regions of the world.”
OSU is the state’s top research university, earning more research funding than the rest of Oregon’s comprehensive public universities combined. Researchers are conducting innovative work related to the production of hazelnuts, the most important orchard crop of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. The state produces 99% of the nation’s crop.
Nik Wiman and Marcelo Moretti are associate professors in the College of Agricultural Sciences’ horticulture department. “As a result of Ferrero’s support, we can deliver more solutions to growers, hopefully improving their success and increasing sustainability of the Oregon hazelnut industry,” said Wiman, a leading researcher in the fight against the brown marmorated stink bug. “At the same time, we are training the next generation of research and extension professionals in agricultural science.”
Marcelo Moretti’s lab is focused on managing weeds in orchards. “The funds from Ferrero gave my program the financial stability needed to focus on the long-term and hard-to-answer questions that affect the hazelnut industry,” he said.
From Ferrero’s perspective, Oregon could be a testing ground for solutions applied around the world.
“For example, finding alternative, nonchemical ways to control weeds could allow Oregon to be greener and reduce its impact on the environment. Maybe the same strategy can be used in Italy, France, Chile and beyond,” said De Gregorio. “Overall, it could be a very good thing for the industry. We hope that any bits of knowledge that come from Oregon or other countries can be shared back and forth.”
The Ferrero company is best known for Nutella, which was created in Alba, Italy. In the shadow of World War II, a baker named Pietro Ferrero couldn’t get enough cocoa to make traditional confections, so he took inspiration from nocciole del Piemonte, the native hazelnut trees that grow plentifully on the hills of Italy’s Piedmont region. He mixed ground hazelnuts with chocolate to make a sweet but more nutritious treat, available for a lower cost – affordable for more than special occasions. Soon after, the company he created with his family introduced the soft and creamy spread that became a worldwide phenomenon.
Now Oregon – whose state nut is the hazelnut – has become part of the Ferrero story.
The hazelnuts Ferrero purchases in Oregon are shipped to Europe and Central and South America as well as factories in the U.S. and Canada. Oregon’s crop represents a small but growing portion of the hazelnuts used in Ferrero products.
“We are grateful to Ferrero for investing in OSU’s research. Our College of Agricultural Sciences is one of the best agricultural colleges in North America and its faculty attract research funding from around the world,” said Shawn L. Scoville, president and CEO of the OSU Foundation. “This investment in hazelnut research is another example of OSU’s focus on supporting economic outcomes that matter – to Oregon and the world.”
OSU researcher Wiman notes that many people associate Ferrero Rocher with the winter holidays. “We are big fans of Nutella in my family, too – we like it on waffles, toast or with apple slices,” he added. “It’s fun to think that some of the hazelnuts in there – increasingly so – are from our own Willamette Valley orchards, produced by the very same growers I work with.”
Investments in OSU research support economic development in Oregon. To learn more about supporting agricultural experiment stations and Extension centers, contact Amy Crumley, senior director of development II for the College of Agricultural Sciences.