Police called over Nutella ‘riots’ in French shops

‘People rushed in ... it was an orgy!’: 70 per cent discount sends shoppers into a frenzy

The French government will discuss ways of limiting special promotions on food items at its next cabinet meeting on January 31st, after shoppers shouted, pushed, shoved and even came to blows in "Nutella riots" in various parts of France on Thursday.

The Intermarché supermarket chain precipitated what one employee called a "catastrophe" by advertising a three-day sale on 950-gram jars of the Italian-made hazelnut and chocolate spread, which were reduced in price by 70 per cent, from €4.70 to €1.41.

The promotion was supposed to last until Saturday, but many shops ran out within minutes. Police intervened in some places.

"People rushed in, knocked things over, broke jars. It was an orgy!" an Intermarché employee in Moselle told the Agence France Presse. At Horme, in the Loire Valley, "We tried to act as buffers between clients, but they pushed us out of the way," an employee told Europe 1 radio. She swore a customer sustained a black eye in the scramble.


Three hundred jars at the small Intermarché in Saint-Chamond, also in the Loire, went in 15 minutes. "People were fighting. We sold three months' worth. There was nothing but Nutella at the checkout," a cashier said.

A customer at Rive-de-Gier said people “acted like animals. A woman had her hair pulled. An old lady was hit in the head with a cardboard box. Someone else had a bleeding hand. It was horrible”.

Queues formed outside supermarkets before opening time on Thursday morning. Some customers had hidden Nutella jars in other parts of the store the previous night, the manager of the Intermarché at Montbrison said. He limited the offer to three jars per person.

Somehow, one can’t imagine anyone rioting for Marmite.

Ferrero, the Italian company that makes Nutella, issued a statement saying it "deplores this operation and its consequeances that create confusion and disappointment in the minds of consumers".

This is not the first time Nutella has made headlines. Last November, Ferrero had to reassure consumers regarding a tiny adjustment in milk content. In August 2017, a lorry filled with 20 tonnes of Nutella and Kinder eggs was stolen in Germany. In 2016, the McDonald's fast food chain in Italy launched the "McNutella", a burger-shaped brioche filled with Nutella and served in a burger box.

France accounts for a quarter of the global consumption of Nutella and is the largest Nutella market in the world.

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe

Lara Marlowe is an Irish Times contributor