India is the world’s fifth largest instant noodles market after China, Indonesia, Japan and Vietnam, according to the 2016 data by World Noodle Association. The concept of instant noodles in India was introduced by Nestlé in 1983. Over the years, the category has grown significantly and has seen the entry of other players. Today, Nestlé’s Maggi is the market leader accounting for close to 60% market share (2017). Other key brands include ITC’s Yippee!, Nepal-based Chaudhary Group’s Wai Wai, Ching’s Secret, Patanjali, HUL’s Knorr Soupy Noodles and Mama Noodles, among others.
Brands such as Ching’s and Wai Wai have established themselves in specific flavour categories such as Chinese, spicy, etc. These brands have been able to cater to specific preferences of Indian consumers by positioning themselves on a specific flavour platform.
However, the ban on Maggi in June, 2015, led to shrinking of the overall market, although for a brief period. The product’s sales then recorded a decline as the entire category suffered from trust deficit. Having said that, the ban helped other brands to get a higher shelf visibility and build their brand awareness. This has expanded the market from a two-three brands play to five-six brands, increasing competition in the category.
Today’s consumers, especially millennials, are open to experimentation and choices/options that cater to their different moods and occasions. It has, thus, become important for brands to stand out in the competitive environment. Offering a range of variants has been one of the differentiating strategies — these range from the basic flour (atta and oats, for healthier variants) to flavours (Peri Peri, Curry, Schezwan, Fiery Chilli and Masalas of India among many others), cooking styles and time, and basic ingredients (vegetarian, chicken).
It has become imperative for brands to constantly engage with consumers to stay relevant. Innovation with flavours will emerge as a key dimension for the growth equation for brands in this space. It can also help them create higher brand loyalty, with one or more flavours connecting well with consumers, and encouraging stickiness and loyalty.
The author, Saloni Nangia is president, Technopak