Maggi, Nestlé’s flagship brand, has dominated the instant noodles market for decades, but is now losing ground in India and facing stagnating growth in Malaysia.
In India, Maggi’s market share has shrunk in the face of new competition from a high of 62.6 per cent in 2011 to 60.3 per cent in 2014, according to research firm Euromonitor. GSK’s Horlicks Foodles and Hindustan Unilever’s Knorr Soupy Noodles have done well by positioning their brands as a healthy alternative, while ITC’s distribution might has won Yipee a double-digit share. Critics say Maggi hasn’t experimented with flavours, and has been overly reliant on its Masala variety.
In Malaysia, Maggi’s market share has peaked at about 39 per cent. Euromonitor expects noodles sales growth to slow due to the category’s maturity, and cheaper-yet-tasty brands flooding the market.
Maggi is a case study in how to sell a new food category to India. It marked the entry of packaged food in the evening snack slot. It built a bridge between taste and health and a relationship between the mother and child.
It was the interesting new alternative to traditional evening snacks. Having built a new category, Maggi revelled in its wide appeal.
Gradually, newer players have entered the market, vying for attention with propositions that combine health and taste. Knorr Soup from Hindustan Unilever, cakes from Britannia, Oreo from Mondelez and Chocos from Kellogg’s are all helping the Indian mother add variety to the evening routine.
There are new players within instant noodles too, including ITC’s Yipee, Capital Food’s Ching’s and many lesser-known brands that have secured shelf space, eroding Maggi’s market share in the process.
Maggi’s equity is in combining health and taste and the mother-child-family relationship. This can be expanded across other occasions during the day and through newer formats. While Maggi is toying with an oats offering for the mornings, its delivery on taste and staying interesting will be key to its success. Perhaps it should take a leaf out of GSK’s Horlicks’ book, a prime example of extending brand equity from milk additives to biscuits.
Dheeraj Sinha is chief strategy officer of South and Southeast Asia at Grey
Maggi instant noodles are one of those classics that all Asians remember craving from childhood to university and into our 20-somethings.
But like every established product with a history and heritage, the struggle is to remain relevant with a younger, more fickle generation of consumers who seek the constantly new, fresh, visual and “it” product. Maggi may be appearing too traditional and classic to consumers, which would explain its shrinking market share. Consumers are also more health conscious about instant and processed foods.
For its part, Nestlé is already starting to get moving and experiment. It is now understanding the move towards healthier grains. A case in point is the company’s move into the growing breakfast and oats market in India, with its oat noodles variant.
Nestlé should consider engaging with younger generations through cultural mash-up flavours and packaging. This is the generation of cultural mash-ups, so think fusion flavours and turning classic Asian icons and symbols into fun, quirky or tongue-in-cheek graphics, characters and pixel art for a noodle packet or cup design. Invite young indie designers to help redesign the packaging. Finally, use the idea of contextual integration to understand where and how Maggi can fit into an individual’s day.
Tara Hirebet is head of Asia-Pacific at Contagious Insider Consulting