Friday, January 09, 2009

Top Ramen : Its not Noodles, Its Smoodles

Brand : Top Ramen
Company : Indo Nissin
Agency : Dentsu

Brand Analysis Count : 370

Top Ramen is the second largest Noodles brand in India trying hard for the past 18 years to beat Maggi Noodles. Top Ramen is a global brand from Nissin. Launched in 1991, Top Ramen has been trying all possible marketing tool to dethrone Maggi.

As a hardcore Noodles fan, I remember trying out this brands on two occasions. First occasion was when the brand was launched. The brand quickly went into limelight with its famous positioning as Smoodles. I guess that Smoodles means Smooth Noodles . But after the initial trying,I went back to Maggi noodles.

The next occasion was when Maggi changed the taste. That was an occasion where, as a brand loyalist , I dumped Maggi . For a while I bought Top Ramen . Then when Maggi reversed the taste, I switched back....

Top Ramen at that point of time was one of the heavy advertisers in the media. And since the taste was also comparable , many Maggi users may have switched to this brand. But it could not retain the customers like me. One factor is the price. Top Ramen was always perceived as a premium brand compared to the affordable Maggi. ( Its my perception since I don't exactly remember the price difference ). The high price may have prompted many Maggi users to switch back .

Another factor was the promotion. Top Ramen could not sustain the share of mind it generated during the formative years. Maggi was able to bring in lot of noise because it had become an umbrella brand and was advertising for various other products .

Top Ramen had an interesting distribution strategy . For the past 10 years, the brand has been distributed by Marico. It is a case of marketing alliance where Top Ramen was utilizing the distribution strength of Marico. In 2008, the alliance was mutually called-off . Now Nissin is building its own distribution network.

It is puzzling to see that a global brand with lot of support from its parent could not put up a big fight with Maggi .The major issue faced by Top Ramen was the differentiation. Top Ramen could not offer any serious differentiation to Maggi either in terms of the product or brand. Since there was no serious differentiation, Maggi was able to gain back the lost ground because it was the pioneer brand who built the category. Top Ramen also lost out when Maggi repositioned itself in the health platform.

Having said that, Top Ramen had its share of innovations. This brand is credited with innovating a new category of cup-noodles in Indian market. The difference between cup noodles and instant noodles is that cup-noodles need not be cooked, it is ready to eat just after adding hot water into it.
Top Ramen currently holds more than 90 % share in the cup-noodles market. Maggi has recently entered the cup-noodles market with its brand Cuppa- Mania. It is expected that the entry of new players will expand the category.

Unlike instant noodles where the brands are targeting kids, Cup-Noodles is targeting adults. The segment aimed by Top-Ramen is 16-35 .

Top Ramen is also credited with the launch of curry-noodles in India. While ordinary noodles are dry, curry noodles have both gravy. Top Ramen to me is heavily associated with Curry Noodles. and that is one of the reasons why I did not buy the brand ( i hated the curry variant).

So the brand has not been remaining dormant. It has been doing the right things in the market but somehow the brand is not able to manage the perception among the consumers. It is in the promotion front that Top Ramen has failed to make an impact.

When Maggi repositioned itself as a healthy food, Top Ramen should have followed suit since the market was moving towards healthy foods. When Maggi launched its rice noodles, Top Ramen should have followed since it could have added value to the brand.

Except for the first phase of brand promotion, Top Ramen did not have any worthwhile campaign in its 18 years of existence. Hence as a customer, the brand is not giving me enough reasons to change my addiction to Maggi brand. Even it is not giving enough reasons for kids to buy this brand.

Related Brand

Update : Marketing Practice reader ' Outspoken ' that in 1999 Shah Rukh Khan endorsed Top Ramen Curry Noodles. But that campaign has long been forgotten.


  1. You seem to be forgetting that Maggi is from the Nestle stables which not only has a large distribution network in India. It is much more entrenched in the Indian system.

  2. I think about 5-10 years ago[i was too young to remember] the brand had Shahrukh Khan in its advt. for the curry-smoodles.
    Although I liked the taste, i was unable to continue purchasing it because it wasn't available in many stores [specifically where my parents used to get monthly provisions from]!
    Brands like maggi distribute themselves everywhere, using HUL's network. Some stores stock ONLY HUL's products!

    Another interesting case where non-availability in stores might have hit a brand is Nirma, simply said, Nirma is not available in any store in my neighbourhood, forcing us(my mom) to switch to Wheel[HUL product] etc.

  3. My bad! But i still stick by the argument that one of the reasons it sells is because of availability.

  4. aniket , its true that distribution has been a weakpoint for Top Ramen, no doubt about it....

    Thanks outspoken, it was a new information.

  5. I do agree with you when you say that Top Ramen lacks in consumer perception and promotion front. But i do not agree when you say that Top ramen should have follwed suit Maggi as a healthy food or may be in the rice noodles extension. I say this Top Ramen was already suffering on the differentiation front and adopting a FOLLOWER strategy could have been even devastating for them.

    True, u said they need to focus on promotions and in addition should work on increasing the Top of the mind recall and use some innovative ways to promote maybe the AXE way.

  6. anukriti2:02 AM

    if top ramen were to come up with wheat noodles, why do you think people would prefer it over maggi atta noodles?

    considering the fact that maggi has a greater appeal with kids of all age groups, how will you try and promote top ramen? will it be a great campaign, a gud jingle, or a slogan, or a cool packaging

  7. Its interesting to know about Top Ramen, i do agree, Top ramen has failed to positioned it self has top priority choice when it comes to noodles, because of its advertisement and promotions. When people go to shop to buy Noodles, they still prefer Maggi noodles... its because of taste and promotions are the main reason.

  8. recently i purchased mug noodles, which was liked by all in my family .now when i want to buy i am unable get..........let me know from wher i can get..

  9. let me know where can i get mug noodles in hyderabad....

  10. i love topramen smoodles very much. my son he is a big fan of its taste. he eats it everyday. we r from theni, tamilnadu. but there r some dummy companies producing noodles and they market them with topramen name on it. even the packing is similar to topramen. beneath the topramen brand name it was written smooth noodles. such companies came into market in some shops and original topramen has disappeared. what about the customers who are fond of the great and original taste of topramen. i request the company to take measures to control such duplicate company to spread in the market which r spoiling the fame of the original topramen smoodles.

  11. Anonymous6:24 PM


  12. Anonymous12:15 AM

    by chance retailer had top ramen not maggi,my friend denied to purchase top ramen..i said y u r not purchasing top ramen is also noodles.. but he said i can't switch quickly,,might be possible dat top ramen taste is not gud as maggi have n i can get maggi very easily next to dis shop n i cant spend money on dat so quickly which i have never tasted shows two three things,,top of d mind in consumer's mind is maggi.. brand recall, good taste, better distribution of maggi, easy availabilty.

  13. Top Ramen can never ever beat Maggie because a retailer I know. For instance their supply chain management is very poor. Their sales representative visited my outlet on december 2009 and took order from me and till date i did not see his face. Thats the way they want to beat maggie as a brend.


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