Monday, 15 December 2014

The Nutella Drinking Glass

A Nutella drinking glass

Recently in one of the classes I've been taking as part of my MA in Curating Contemporary Design I had to give a short presentation analysing an object. Any object at all. And while there are billions of objects in the world, and at least tens of thousands of brilliant ones, I came back to an old favourite. The Nutella drinking glass is one of the simplest but most clever things you'll find on a supermarket shelf anywhere in the world, and here's why.

A collection of limited edition Nutella drinking glasses

Ok, so maybe not so seemingly revolutionary now that hipster bars in gentrified neighbourhoods have started serving cocktails in old jam jars, but back in 1990 when Nutella first started producing these, the idea that instead of putting a spread in a standard jar, but putting it in a drinking glass instead was really ahead of its time. Instead of packaging their product in a container that could feasibly only be used once and then thrown out, Nutella began to package it in something that could be used as a chocolate spread jar, then washed out and used as a drinking glass indefinitely after that. In addition to super plain (and pretty attractive) glasses like the one I bought recently (pictured at the top), Nutella have released heaps of limited edition glasses over the years, particularly in southern Europe, which collectors now hunt eBay for (examples pictured above; £13 to buy and £13 to ship a glass that was originally bought for £1.50, anyone?)

Beyond the sheer cleverness of this object, I cannot stress enough how forward-looking it was. Environmentalism was a pretty nascent movement in the early '90s when this first surfaced, and our collective environmental conscience was - if children's tv show Captain Planet, also of that time, is anything to go by - focussed more on the idea of pollution from industry, oil spills etc rather than the more recent concepts of recycling at home, reducing our waste and reusing what we can. And yet there Nutella was, selling us their spread in drinking glasses like eco heroes. And for the record, Nutella doesn't even need to do anything clever with its packaging if it doesn't want to: the product it's packaging is one of the greatest things you can put on bread on the whole planet. No other gimmicks or selling points necessary. But they came up with one anyway, and it's brilliant. Bravo!

Image 2 via