A jar of Nutella now contains 8.7% skimmed milk powder whereas before this was listed as 7.5%.
The manufacturer does not list the exact amount of cocoa used but Hamburg-based consumer group Verbraucherzentrale noted that cocoa has “slipped back in the list of ingredients".
“As the colour of the new Nutella is lighter, we assume that more milk powder was added at the expense of cocoa,” it said.
According to the nutrition table, the new version also contains slightly more sugar, increasing from 55.9% to 56.3%, while the fat content fell slightly from 31.8% to 30.9%.
However, a spokesperson for the firm said it had not increased the amount of added sugar.
"Like many other food products regularly do, the Nutella recipe has undergone a minor adjustment. In this instance, the fine-tuning is very minimal.
The quality, sourcing and characteristics of all Nutella ingredients have remained the same, while the amount of added sugar has not increased. We have quality controls and regular taste tests with our consumers to ensure we always retain 100% Nutella quality – this is what we always aim for and that has not changed."
Ferrero did not communicate the recipe change at the time and Verbraucherzentrale said it doesn’t know when the recipe change took place but believes it is a money-saving exercise.
“Many suspect that with this recipe change Ferrero wants to save money on the ingredients because skimmed milk powder is usually much cheaper than cocoa powder. A reduction in the purchase price of Nutella, in order to pass on the lower cost of the ingredients to consumers, has not yet been
The secret recipe change has sparked anger among the public with Twitter users, under the hashtag #BoycottNutella, calling on consumers to boycott the product until Ferrero reverts back to the previous formulation.
The consumer group expressed surprise that Ferrero had raised the sugar content in the midst of rising obesity and type 2 diabetes numbers in Germany.
“What Ferrero has done with the current recipe change, given the high sugar content, is exactly the opposite of what health politicians want. After all, the fat content was lowered, but only very slightly,” it said.
Verbrauchzentrale designed a poster showing a glass jar with the approximate proportions of raw ingredients used in Nutella, which it has circulated online.
Similar images and a video have also been circulated by French consumer group UFC-Que Choisir. France is the biggest global consumer of Ferrero’s chocolate hazelnut spread.
In the video, the consumer group criticises the manufacturer for promoting the most attractive ingredients in its advertising campaigns, such as hazelnuts and cocoa, even though these are used it smaller amounts that palm oil and sugar.
It also pulled up Ferrero for referring to the ingredients as “fruits of the oil palm” and “French beet sugar”.
“You’d think that we should count Nutella as one of our five-a-day fruit and vegetables,” said UFC-Que Choisir journalist Fabienne Maleysson.
Earlier this year, Ferrero launched a TV advertising campaign defending its use of palm oil in Nutella, saying palm oil is currently suffering "an unfair smear campaign" in Italy.