The Rise and Fall of Maggi in India

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 1247 , Published on 10 September 2015

Maggi is a name which no one Indian household could say have not heard about. It has become top most eaten noodles in India. Nestle started it in 1987 with the famous tagline 2 minutes noodles which still the same. In India Maggi has a market share of around 60% and stands undisputed for so many years.

Image: pixabay

It all come to a stand when it suddenly came in news for the wrong reasons.

It all started when traces of lead and Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) were found in excess in Maggi. The Food Safety Regulators in Uttar Pradesh, found that samples of Maggi noodles contained excess of MSG. The tests revealed that Maggi contained around 17 parts per million (PPM) of lead as against the permissible limit of 0.01 PPM. With the discovery of excess of lead many state banned Maggi and all its related products. The states include Delhi, Kerala, Punjab, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh. Bollywood stars who endorsed the product were also booked for promoting it.

How does consuming lead and MSG affect the body?

Excess of lead intake could damage the nervous system and cause brain disorders. Monosodium Glutamate or MSG is naturally present in various food items such as mushrooms, tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and soy sauce. It has a unique taste which is different from salty, sweet, sour or bitter. The taste is described as ‘meaty’ and termed as Umami. Excess consumption of MSG promotes sluggishness in the body. It may also cause headache, nausea, increased thirst and a twitching sensation in the mouth. In some cases one may feel numbness, skin rashes and excessive sweating too.

There is mainly a technicality issue between Nestle and India’s food authority (the FSSAI. Both Nestle and FSSAI agree that the level of lead found in single packet lies within the permissible limit but the issue is about the tastemaker. Tastemaker is the seasoning that is added to the noodles and FSSAI argues that it breaches 2.5 parts per million permissible limit when tasted. In defence Nestle argues that tastemaker is never meant to be eaten alone and instruction on Maggi packets also states the same, therefore the two should be taken as single product instead of considering tastemaker as a single one.

Though Maggi noodles are pulled off shelves in India there are other nations that have passed it in testing and consider them safe. Canada and Singapore have tested them and pronounced them safe. The main reason is that Singapore cares less about hygiene as compared to India and Canadian inspectors are quite relaxed about food safety. It is also worth mentioning that Maggi Noodles along with it lead content had 4 ppm or 5 ppm so it would require around 200 Kilograms of those noodles to match some of the so called ayurvedic medicine had around 70,000 ppm.

Then there was the issue of MSG (monosodium glutamate) which was found in noodles despite Nestle claiming they have not used any. Glutamate or glutamic acid is occurring naturally in our body and naturally in various foods such as cheese, walnuts, tomatoes and mushrooms. The taste enhancer has become important part of the diet of the Asian people but in recent year people of the west are creating lot of scare-mongering connected to it. As of now no ill effects of MSG have been reported till now.

The only ill effect that was when a scientific study was carried out on a rat that too when enormous quantities of the substance were injected, such large amount could damage or cause ill effect to anyone and expected to produce an adverse reaction. There are various other substances cinnamon which cause ill effects even at low level still it is consumes everywhere is households.

Ban of Maggi have helped brands such as Yippee Noodles and Bambino a lot a huge increase in their shares signifies this fact. Currently the current share ITC Yippee share is around 18-20% and could rise even more.

Problems that have arisen with the ban of Maggi (on a lighter note) –

1) Huge problems especially for bachelors who don’t know how to cook.

2) Now mother have to be prepared in advance with some food in the evening for their children who came running after playing asking for food as now the food can’t be prepared in 2 minutes. (Though we all know Maggi takes more than 2 minutes to cook but let us not spoil their tagline).

3) Cooking scientist have lost their jobs as they don’t any more Maggi to experiment on with their ideas like adding chilli sauce , mayo, ketchup, onions ,capsicum , rice . Dal Makhni, Shahi paneer no matter what the product is all has went into it.

4) Late night talks have come to standstill as there is nothing left to feed the hunger that arises during night.

Good news for Maggi –

"Nestle India respects the decision made on August 13 by the Honourable Bombay High Court to revoke the ban order passed by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and FDA, Maharashtra, on Maggi noodles and will comply with the order to undertake fresh tests," the company said in a statement.

It stocks also rise by 6% following the news. The High Court quashed down the appeal of food regulatory of India to ban 9 variants of Maggi as according to them natural rule for judgement was not followed during their case. But still Maggi has not stated when they return back in the market and with what product and strategy as they are still waiting for the hard copy of the judgement. Whatever be the future of Maggi the whole India is waiting for that 2 minutes to be back in their life.

This article has been authored by Ashish Gandhi from IIM Kashipur 

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