It could be the best publicity that a company known for its jars of chocolate-hazelnut spread could hope to get.

If you didn’t see the story over the weekend, check out the video of the pushing, shoving shoppers above (click to play). It’s not Black Friday in the U.S., where crazed consumers have been known to fight over toys and televisions. It’s just an ordinary Thursday in France, where shoppers attacked each other over $1.75 jars of Nutella.

To American shoppers who clip coupons and shop the sales, $1.75 isn’t even that great of a price for Nutella, much less something worth fighting over.

But in France, that price represented a 70% discount – and the BOGOs, 10 for $10 sales and plentiful coupons that we enjoy just aren’t commonplace there. So the French grocery chain Intermarché created a stir when it launched the sale on 33-ounce jars of Nutella last Thursday. It was meant to last three days – but at most stores, the sale lasted mere minutes.

Shoppers who were determined to take advantage of the deal lined up outside stores before the doors even opened. They raced inside and grabbed as many jars as they could, then fought their way to checkout. Some even used tactics taken straight out of American extreme shoppers’ playbook – they went through the store the day before the sale, and hid jars of Nutella behind other products in order to retrieve them when the sale began.

At one store, a staffer attempting to calm an unruly crowd got punched in the eye. In another, police had to be called to restore order.


“People just rushed in, shoving everyone, breaking things,” one store employee said. Shoppers were “like animals,” a customer added. “One woman had her hair pulled. An elderly lady took a box on her head. Another had a bloody hand.”

Some stores tried to ease the insanity by limiting shoppers to one jar apiece. But one store still sold out within 15 minutes. Another said they ended up selling three months’ worth of Nutella in a few frenzied minutes.

The grocery chain apologized for the chaos its sale had caused, saying it was sorry for the “disagreeable events customers suffered”. Nutella maker Ferrero issued a statement to “clarify that the decision for the special offer was taken unilaterally by Intermarché. We regret the consequences of this operation, which created confusion and disappointment in the consumers’ minds.”

Consider that France is the home of haute cuisine, but its residents still flock to McDonald’s. The French have produced some of the world’s greatest artists, but they’re also infamous for considering Jerry Lewis to be a genius. So it may seem out of character for French shoppers to go wild for a tub of chocolatey goo, but it’s estimated they go through about 100 million jars of the stuff each year.

Out-of-control shopping frenzies are “unusual in France, except when there’s a particularly exceptional sale,” French customer behavior specialist Sophie Chevalier said matter-of-factly to the newspaper Le Parisien. “Nutella is pure pleasure for children and to offer it at a bargain price obviously attracts lots of customers.”

There are not currently any valid coupons available for Nutella in the U.S., and no one is selling it for 70% off as far as we know. So you’re safe from getting caught up in any Nutella riots here.

But maybe not for long. Ferrero is promoting February 5th as the 11th annual “World Nutella Day”. “Keep calm, World Nutella Day is coming,” the company tweeted the other day. And what better way to celebrate a holiday than with a sale, to encourage Nutella lovers to stock up and snack on their favorite food?

Better get your Nutella before then, if you must. Even if it means having to pay full price.

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