ROME (AP) — Michele Ferrero, the world's richest candy maker whose Nutella chocolate and hazlenut spread helped raise generations of Italians and define Italian sweets, has died, officials said. He was 89.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella praised Ferrero as one of the protagonists of Italian industry, "always ahead of his time thanks to innovative products and his tenacious and reserved work."

Ferrero was the patriarch of the eponymous family empire best known for its Nutella and Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

His father Pietro started making Nutella when cocoa was still rationed during World War II, Forbes noted in ranking Ferrero and his family 30th on its list of the worlds richest billionaires, worth $23.4 billion.