Ferrero treats and confections are holiday traditions around the world, with candies like Ferrero Rocher and Kinder chocolates. It is also the company behind favorites like Nutella and Tic Tac. Ferrero is one of the most secretive companies in the world, fully owned and controlled by the Ferrero family.

The Privacy of Ferrero

Ferrero is a privately owned company, currently led by Giovanni Ferrero, grandson of founder Pietro Ferrero. Because the company does not have shareholders or partners, it is not required to disclose certain financial information. They do all their research in-house, including an in-house engineering department, to protect their trade secrets. Although it is a global brand, and the second-largest candy company in the world, it does not allow the media or smartphones inside its plants and facilities, and has never held a press conference. 

The History of Ferrero

The company was founded in 1946 in Piedmont, Italy by confectioner Pietro Ferrero. Alba has a long tradition of hazelnut production, and is famous for gianduja, a mixture of chocolate with hazelnut paste. Gianduja was first invented as a response to the limited chocolate supply imposed by Napoleon, but soon became a local favorite. Pietro’s bakery became popular for its version of the treat, and his son Michele joined the family business and worked alongside his father. 

Due to the presence of nut oil, gianduja is softer than tempered chocolate, but still sold in the form of blocks. In the 1950s, Michele began experimenting with a spreadable version of the confection, and, in 1964, he sold the first jar of Nutella. 

Nutella was an instant success, exceeding Michele’s ambitions to grow the company throughout Europe. While demand for Nutella led to the rapid expansion of the company, it also continued to innovate with new products, launching the Mon Chéri bonbon in 1956, and Ferrero Küsschen and Pocket Coffee in 1968.

The company had another huge success with the introduction of Ferrero Rocher chocolate-covered hazelnuts in 1979. Today, the Ferrero company purchases 25% of the global hazelnut supply, and 61% of annual Ferrero Rocher sales take place over the holiday season. 

This string of successes made Michele Ferrero one of the richest men in the world, with an estimated personal wealth of $26B. In 2008, he became the richest Italian, and remained so until he passed away in 2015.

The Growth of Ferrero

In 1997, Michele allowed his sons Pietro Jr. and Giovanni to take over the leadership of the company. The third generation of Ferreros jointly ran the company until Pietro Jr’s sudden death from a heart attack in 2011. 

With the deaths of his brother and father, Giovanni Ferrero inherited sole leadership of the company. Giovanni has a very different approach to management than his father, who believed that success was built on quality, reputation, and innovation. In order to secure the company’s into the future, Giovanni began a campaign of acquisition. Here are the highlights of the growth of the portfolio:

  • 2014: the Oltan Group, the world’s largest hazelnut supplier
  • 2015: British chocolate retailer Thorntons
  • 2016: Belgian biscuit brands Delacre and DeliChoc
  • 2017: US chocolate maker Fannie May and the Ferrara Candy Company
  • 2018: Nestle’s American confectionary brands Baby Ruth, Butterfinger, and Crunch Bar
  • 2019: Kellogg’s biscuit brands including Famous Amos, Keebler, Mother’s, and more
  • 2020: UK Fox’s Biscuits and Eat Natural, along with a stake in Danish bakery Kelsen Group
  • 2021: British Burton’s Biscuit Company
  • 2022: Irish vitamin and protein bar company Fulfil Nutrition, and American ice cream manufacturer Wells Enterprises, which produces Blue Bunny, Blue Ribbon, Halo Top, and other ice cream products

Today, Giovanni is the richest person in Italy and the 28th richest in the world, surpassing his father with an estimated net worth of $37.6B.

With holiday staples like Ferrero Rocher and perennial favorites like Nutella and Kinder Surprise, the Ferrero company has secured a place in family traditions around the world. With all the recent expansion and acquisitions, it has also secured a place in the future, and there is no telling where it will go next.