With the death of Michele Ferrero on Valentine’s Day the world has lost one of its great family business leaders. Born in 1925, he joined the family confectionery business in the Piedmont region of northern Italy at the age of 20 and over the next seven decades turned into an extraordinary global empire.
Ferrero, whose most famous products are Nutella, Kinder Eggs and Ferrero Rocher chocolates, is now the fourth-biggest confectionery firm in the world. Here is Michele’s story in numbers.
1946: The year Michele’s father Pietro perfected the recipe for his famous nut/chocolate mix, which was originally called Giandujot and sold hardened. It made a virtue of a small amount of chocolate and a lot of hazelnuts – a stroke of genius, as hazelnuts are a fraction of the price of cocoa.
300kg: The amount sold in the first year of production.
33: The age at which Michele took over the family business in 1949, when his father died.
1949: The year the spreadable version of Giandujot came out. By 1951 was called Supercrema. The genius of this idea was that, being spreadable, you only had to use a small amount, so poor people had access to what was still seen as a luxury product.
1964: The year Michele changed the name to Nutella.
50: The number of hazelnuts that go into a jar of Nutella.
25: Percentage of the world’s hazelnuts bought by Ferrero every year.
365m: The number of tonnes of Nutella that are said to have been sold in 2012.
€19bn: Ferrero’s estimates sales in 2012.
21,000: The number of people Ferrero employs.
1: The number of acquisitions Ferrero made in Michele’s lifetime – of Turkey’s largest hazelnut factory Oltan Gida in 2014.
0: The number of media interviews Michele gave in his lifetime. The secretive firm has never held a press conference and also makes all its own machinery.
2: The number of sons Michele had. The eldest, Pietro, died of a heart attack while cycling in 2011 leaving the younger, Giovanni, to run over the business on his own.