Saturday, May 23, 2015

Brand Update : Maggi Noodles in a soup !

Its a worst nightmare come true for a marketer, the brand getting into a health controversy. India's favorite noodles brand Maggi landed in its biggest challenge of its life when the health officials from Uttarpradesh FDA asked the company to recall one batch of noodles of a suspected high levels monosodium glutamate (MSG).The news spread like a wildfire both in social media and mainstream media . 

The company sprang into action by denying any addition of MSG to its noodles however with a caveat that glutamate may have occurred naturally to noodles because of some ingredients. ( really !). Another news that went viral is that Maggi Noodles contains excessive quantities of the metal lead and hence it is going to be banned. Again the company in its clarification says that they test noodles for lead content and it is within the permissible limit ( really !) .

Its a crisis for a brand which is having more than 70% share in the Indian market but with competition hotting up. A big blow to the brand which off late has been harping on health platform. 

What is worrying is that the complaint has not originated from a consumer or an activist but by a government agency. Hence the perception of  seriousness of the finding is more and the damage is also grave for the brand. The main stream media also cannot ignore the issue because it is from a government department. Another issue is that since it is  a government department that initiated the complaint, the brand cannot hope for a speedy solution. 

It is interesting to observe how Nestle has responded to the crisis. The first reaction would be of denial. The brand had denied the finding of MSG stating that it has not added MSG to the noodles. The entire episode was amplified in the social media and Nestle was also actively engaging the conversation in the social media. ( Read a good commentary  by Karthik Srinivasan) . The twitter handle of the brand and the brand's micro-site has been updated with the brand's version of the events.

As Karthik has stated in the blog, the brand may be readying its brand ambassador Madhuri Dixit to convince the customer that it is safe to consume. Since Big B has also endorsed the brand, Nestle may rope him also since he already have experience in helping the brand survive such controversies   ( pun intended).

It almost 24 days since the issue began. The brand may be waiting for an independent test by a lab for further action or is it waiting for the issue to die down ? 

As a consumer since my child love noodles, there is a ban on noodles at home as of now. Because whether added or not, Nestle has confirmed presence of MSG or Glutamate and  lead metal inside - whether within permissible limit or not . Ofcourse we will continue to eat other foods till it is found guilty.
So what will happen to Maggi ?
The consumer's memory is short. So he will forget all these after sometime. Can Maggi wait it out ! The brand already had commented that it will challenge the order.

The larger issue is of trust. If one read between the lines of the company's version ( here) there is an admission that the food is not healthy but it conforms to legal norms. The company already knew the presence of glutamate and lead in it but the news came out with the controversy. It would take sometime for Nestle to rebuild its trust especially the health positioning.

It would be interesting to see how Nestle would be handling this crisis. The current strategy seems to be waiting for further clarification from independent lab tests and government actions. Probably the company  would be using the independent lab test to convince the customers that lead metal and MSG is within permissible limits and then continue telling stories of Taste Bhi , Health Bhi !.


  1. Abhinav V11:47 PM

    Maggi is one brand that created Noodles category and still rules it. It has undergone so multiple positioning changes over years from being a easy to cook snack for children to healthy food for all ages. Every time Maggi changes it's positioning, the competitors were also forced to change their Marketing strategies. Just 2 years ago, Nestle went through the "Horse Meat" controversy in their Pasta products. Definitely the mother Brand Nestle's "Good Food,Good Life" positioning is facing a life threat now. But, because of the current crisis that Maggi is going through, an average Indian consumer's perception on other brand of Noodles will change as well. Hence, it is a threat to the segment itself and not just for Maggi alone.

  2. Nice to see that you have written again. I was waiting for your next blog, and I have found it at last. You have such a unique style of writing that no one else can replicate you. Can you suggest some online sites where I can gather experience in the field of blogging…how to go about it, and everything else? I came across some marketplaces such as sell logo design , retro style poster flyer. Seems good. I will post my skill and let’s see, I may even become as famous as you.

  3. Prof, would have assumed you would research a claim made by the firm before dismissing it with a parenthesised comment (really!). Glutamate naturally occurs in many foods, including tomatoes, mushrooms and other foods which have what's called a Umami taste. Mother's milk in fact is full of it.

    The fact that Maggi doesn't have any of the specific ingredients stated above doesn't mean it isn't in some other products used in the manufacture of Maggi.

    Secondly, MSG isn't harmful to the human body. All research done in the field has debunked the stupid research that proved otherwise.

  4. Prof , As you said cusyomer memory is short . may be its a short span phenomenon no parents would buy the noodles . but with few months things will change and Maggi shall retain the market .

    We have stories in front us . take example of Pepsi once its rootout nation wise due to excess amount of poisions chemicals . what is the status now .does anybody stop drinking Pepsi?or any parents stop buying pepsi to their child ?

  5. Quite interesting. Maggi is a dominant brand here in my country. I want to see it sorted out though or it will cause us to stop buying their products.


Your Views are Important. Please share your views as comments.