Ferrero, who was 47, ran the Ferrero confectionery group, with his brother Giovanni. He was said to be in South Africa on a business trip.
The Ferrero group, which produces the Nutella and Ferrero Rocher brands, had an annual turnover of €6.6 bn in its 2009-2010 financial year, reported the AFP news agency.
It was his father Michele, Italy's richest man, who turned the company into a global giant of the confectionery industry.
“Italy has lost a businessman who represented the best qualities of our economic history," said Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini in response to the death.