Nutella is, indubitably, one of the most delicious foods on the planet, thanks to its celestial combination of hazelnut and chocolate that brightens even the saddest piece of white bread on a hiking trip. But while one might be excited — nay, overjoyed by the concept of discount Nutella, it's hard to imagine quite the scenes that unfolded at a number of French grocery stores on Thursday, in which a Nutella sale prompted such a frenzy shoppers were reportedly tearing out one another's hair to get the goods.
According to Mashable, the aforementioned hair-tearing began after French supermarket chain Intermarché offered a 70 percent discount on Nutella, bringing the price down from the equivalent of $5.60 in Euros to the equivalent of $1.74 in Euros. That's a pretty steep sale, and it's unsurprising that Nutella enthusiasts (i.e. everyone) would be overjoyed by the news that the tasty spread was available on the cheap. But what transpired, according to reports, looked far less joy and more like, um, violence. In fact, witnesses say the madness at stores offering the sale was akin to a riot.
"They are like animals," one customer told local paper Le Progres. "A woman had her hair pulled, an elderly lady took a box on her head, another had a bloody hand. It was horrible."
And staff at one store said the customers were so viciously intent on getting their hands on the discounted goods one was left with a black eye. "We were trying to get in between the customers but they were pushing us," one staffer told Le Progres, noting that the store's Nutella stock was depleted only 15 minutes after the store opened. A staffer at a store in the Loire likened the Nutella situation to "scenes at the Battle of Berezina fought between the French army and Russia in 1812." And staffers at yet another store claimed customers "threw themselves" atop a staff member carrying Nutella pots.
Social media, never one to miss a spectacle, captured some of the mania:
The Nutella sale reaction was so crazy that some stores were reportedly forced to call the police to help break up the crowds. Others at least considered involving the authorities. "People just rushed in, shoving everyone, breaking things. It was like an orgy. We were on the verge of calling the police," one staffer told Agence France-Presse, according to the Washington Post.
Lest you think the chaos was Nutella's fault on account of being so scrumptious, Italian company Ferrero, which manufactures the spread, put out a statement blaming Intermarché for the mayhem. "We wish to specify that this promotion was decided unilaterally by the brand Intermarché," the company said. "We deplore the consequences of this operation, which create confusion and disappointment in the minds of customers."
It's not unheard of for shoppers to get crazy when there are sales to be had, and considering the infamous mobs that gather outside malls here in the States every Black Friday, there's no sense in poking fun at the Nutella-hungry French. In fact, it turns out Nutella is actually a huge deal in France (not that it isn't here), with the French making up about 26 percent of the world's Nutella consumption, according to some reports. French website the Local says French people get hooked on Nutella as kids, and as they grow older, they associate the spread with simpler times.
"French people eat it by the spoonful. I had it on toast for breakfast as a child," Paris food writer Clotilde Dusoulier told The Local. "And like with candy, grownups continue to eat it to connect with their inner child."
That is sort of sweet, though I do shudder to think of what will happen in French supermarket aisles come World Nutella Day on February 5th.