New Delhi, Nov 9 (IANS) Nestle India on Monday said it has begun the roll-out of Maggi noodles in 100 cities, terming the five-month ban as “one of the biggest crises” it has faced in the 32-year history of the brand in the country. It also announced a pact with Snapdeal for online sales.
“The return of Maggi Noodles on the auspicious eve of Deepawali and on the day of Dhanteras is a moment of celebration for all of us,” Nestle India chairman and managing director Suresh Narayanan said, announcing the re-launch, after it was taken off the shelves on June 5.
“The crisis we went through is a big one for Nestle India. But we were always confident about the quality and safety of Maggi noodles. It is an important brand for the company,” Narayanan told a round-table with journalists to announce the re-launch.
The first to hit the shelves will be the masala variant, which will be available in single, twin, four and six packs. Other variants will follow later, he said.
“Maggi noodles has special relationships and strong emotional bonds with consumers across the country and I am confident our bonds will grow stronger,” he said. “Separately, Nestle India is pleased to partner with Snapdeal to roll-out online offers to mark this special occasion.”
On June 5, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had ordered a pan-India ban on the company’s noodles on the ground that these were “unsafe and hazardous” for humans due to the presence of lead, allegedly beyond permissible limits.
After a five-month legal battle, Nestle said last Wednesday that the masala version of Maggi noodles will hit the retail shelves as early as this month having cleared all tests ordered by the Bombay High Court at three accredited laboratories.
The re-launched popular snack would be exactly the same as it was pre-crisis, and would have the same product formula, Narayanan said, adding: The packaging, however, will not have the line “no-added MSG (monosodium glutamate)” which, too, had become a contentious issue.
Referring to the crisis after some tests conducted by the food safety authorities allegedly found more-than-permissible levels of lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG), the Nestle India chief said the MSG in the packs was in its natural form, without additives or taste enhancers.
Pointing out that Maggi noodles alone contributed 25-30 percent of the India business, Narayanan said the company will take up extensive marketing campaigns for the product.
The company, in June after the ban order, had incinerated Maggi noodles worth Rs.320 crore as fuel for cement factories. As a result of the whole crisis, Narayanan said, the company’s Indian arm suffered around 75 million Swiss francs (nearly Rs.495 crore) worth damages.
Prior to the ban, Maggi noodles were being sold at over 4 million outlets in the country, across nearly 500 cities and towns.
The relaunched noodles are being currently manufactured at three factories located in Nanjangud (Karnataka), Moga (Punjab) and Bicholim (Goa).
For the other two factories of the company in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, Nestle India is in talks with the authorities, as the states haven’t lifted the ban, the company said.
Now what remains to be resolved is the Rs.640-crore class action suit filed by the government for allegedly misleading the public and indulging in unfair trade practices.
Responding to a question by IANS on the class action suit, Narayanan said: “It was unfortunate for Nestle to be embroiled in this. We will defend ourselves to the best of our abilities at the consumer court.”
This case is scheduled to come up again before the apex consumer court on November 23.
The company also said it was open to working with the food safety authorities to upgrade the infrastructure of food quality testing laboratories in the country.