The instant controversy: Maggi muddle puts spotlight on other snacks

Short Description
Maggi Noodles, which has become the household name for noodles in India, is under scanner since the last few days.
  • Nusra Deputy Features Editor
Restaurant India

Even after two weeks when Maggi noodles first started getting boiled by the UP government, there is no final outcome of the result on whether the consumer should feel free to have their favourite ‘Meri  wali Maggi’ or the  government has taken an appropriate actions against the noodle maker which has been selling Maggi for over three decades now. But the bigger question is, ‘Is Maggi the only player offering harmful content or there are more brands that went unnoticed’? The answer is yet not clear, though this issue is a great learning for other packaged food brands who may come under scanner in days to come.

Maggi on ‘Boil’

Maggi Noodles, which has become the household name for noodles in India, is under scanner since the last few days. However, Nestle, the instant noodle maker, is struggling hard to prove itself by testing its product at both external and internal labs. Ever since the local food safety body in UP has found MSG content in the noodle, the brand is going under pressure getting a fallout from retail outlets like Kishore Biyani’s Future Group, Metro Cash & Carry, drop in sales and FIR and several cases from different state governments dragging the celebrities in the matter.

“This has become a national and a sensitive issue now, and it is hard to believe that an MNC like Nestle will face such face problem in terms of food safety and lead content. Meanwhile, if they are faulty enough, state governments should take an action against it,” says Ashim Sanyal, COO, Consumer Voice.

States like Bihar, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Delhi amongst others have brought the issue to food commissioners and Nestle officials. Not only this, a local court in Muzzafarpur district of Bihar has filed a case against two of the Nestle Officials and celebrities who have endorsed Maggi at some point of time including Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta.  

Besides celebrity endorsement issues and safety concerns, the brand ambassadors and consumer activists are also skeptical about testing at done at government lab as some states claim of products containing MSG and Lead while others have given a clean chit to the instant noodle maker.

“As far as celebrity endorsement is concerned, the government is responsible for such issues, the celebrities should not have been brought under the scanner and I doubt how capable government lab is because certain equipment used by these labs is often not upgraded and not properly calibrated,’ added Sanyal.

While, the Delhi government on Wednesday banned the sale of Maggi for 15 days after finding 'high lead content', India needs to look beyond Maggi and conduct a quality check on other brands of noodles and other packaged food products including RTE foods, Juices, Beverages and snacks.

Commenting on the meeting, Delhi Government had with Nestle officials, Satyendra Kumar, Delhi’s Health Minister, shared, "We're not happy with Nestle's explanation. More samples have been collected across Delhi and have been sent for testing. Once we get the results, we'll take action as per rules.”

However, Nestle is continuously proving itself free from the harmful lead and MSG content. According to Nestle’s latest development on this issue, the noodle maker has tested around 1,000 batches of MAGGI Noodles in their own laboratories and also asked an independent lab to test an additional 600 product batches. Almost 125 million or 12.5 Crore packets were tested in total. The test results confirm that MAGGI Noodles are safe, with lead levels well within the food safety limits specified by the Indian authorities.

Commenting on the same, a Nestle statement cleared, “We understand how unsettling some of the current confusion is for our consumers and are working hard to resolve this matter. And we are now working closely with the regulators in Delhi to understand the results of their tests. We are sharing our own test results, which show MAGGI Noodles to be completely safe, explaining our own testing methodologies and trying to understand the discrepancy between their test results and ours.”

However, on asking to CG Foods, which owns Wai Wai Noodles, whether the issue will give a good market share to the company attracting Maggi’s customers towards itself, GP Sah, CEO, CG Foods, shared, “As ethical, competing brands we would like to refrain from commenting on the Maggi episode including comparing a spurt in sales. And Wai Wai meets all regulatory standards as listed by Food Safety and Standard Authority of India. We are not closed to any tests and will cooperate with authorities if required.”

Experts view

Despite the fact that there are several issues that are heating up in the industry and among the consumers today, there is no strong line which one should take - whether in support of Maggi or against it to ban its consumption in the country. And to get a closer picture of how industry experts view this, Restaurant India talked to leaders like, Amit Burman, Vice Chairman, Dabur India and Chairman Lite Bite Foods, R S Sodhi, one of the largest players of milk and milk products in the country, Harish Bijoor, who runs Harish Bijoor Consults Inc, a private-label consulting firm that specialises in Brand and business strategy on how they view this issue individually.

Harish Bijoor, Brand and Business Strategist, Harish Bijoor Consults Inc

“Ever since this issue has broken out, Maggi is under pressure by its stakeholders including the Government, Retailers and the consumers. Nestle needs to give correct answer to the government so as to assure him about the brands safety, it needs to communicate to the Retailers so that they hold on to Maggi and do not look for better replacement of the brand and lastly the customers who have consumed the brand for over 30 years now.”

“I also believe that more packaged food is going to be under scrutiny after this issue and now manufacturers will show  100 per cent due diligence,” added Bijoor.

Amit Burman, Vice-Chairman, Dabur India and Chairman, Lite Bite Foods

“The noodle maker should have handled this issue more aggressively, proactively and in a transparent way. Not much can be done at Nestle's end now except them proving that their product is safe. . I feel that first, they should sort with the government and then work on some Marketing Campaigns to fight the perception battle. Right now, consumers are angry and have lost trust in their ‘Meri wali Maggi’

R S Sodhi, Managing Director, GCMMF, manufacturer of Amul

“Maggi is a great company with 30 years of journey in India; I believe Nestle should come with more clarifications and satisfaction both for consumers and Government. Meanwhile, I believe this is a benchmark for all food companies for great learning because health can never be excused.”

Thus, we can see that with Maggi facing the heat, the share of Nestle India Ltd has sinked 10 per cent causing a serious concern for other global player in the country.

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