Billionaire Michele Ferrero, Italy’s richest man who built a confectionary empire off the much loved Nutella product, has died at age 89. Mr Ferrero has been battling illness for several months and died in Monte Carlo on Saturday.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella released a statement saying “I have learnt with emotion of the passing of Michele Ferrero, a true entrepreneur, known and loved in Italy and abroad. Ferrero was a leading light in Italian business for many years, always managing to stay on trend thanks to his innovative products and his tenacious and cautious work. Italy remembers him with gratitude.”

Nutella first began with Michele’s father, a small time pastry maker named Pietro Ferrero, who laid the groundwork for the Nutella recipe. He added hazelnut to the recipe to save money on cocoa, which was in short supply after World War II. However it was his son, Michele who turned his paste recipe into the Nutella product we know and love. 

The Ferrero group also makes Ferrero Rocher, Mon Cheri and Kinder Chocolates and employs more than 22,000 people. The group has an annual turnover of more than eight billion euros (Approx $A11.61 billion). 

Ferrero and his family are estimated by Forbes to hold Italy’s biggest fortune at $US23.4 billion ($A30.2 billion) making him the 30th richest man in the world.

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The sad news of his death comes just weeks after Nutella celebrating ‘World Nutella Day’ and the celebration of Nutella turning 50.

In honour of Michele Ferrero’s legacy, here are 10 facts you didn’t know about Nutella. 

1. The product was originally a solid block called “pasta Gianduja” and was sliced to serve on bread, not spread. 

2. Italian Kids would get Nutella for free. If a child brought in a slice of bread they were offered a free smear of nutella.

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3. The French Proposed to increase tax on palm oil, one of Nutella’s key ingredients, this sparked international outrage and an amendment was made called the “Nutella Tax”. 

4. One jar of Nutella is sold ever 2.5 seconds worldwide. 

5. In 2013 five tonnes of Nutella were stolen from a parked van.

6. You can circle the globe 1.4 times with the amount of Nutella produced in 2013. 

7. You can cover the Great Wall of China eight times with the number of jars of Nutella sold in a year. 

8. The word Nutella uses a combination of the english world “nut” and the latin suffix for sweet “ella”.

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9. The first jar of Nutella was made in Alba in the North West of Italy in 1964.

10. The Ferrero company now produces about 365,000 tonnes of Nutella every year in 11 factories around the world . 

Source: Nutella