Nestle India to make Maggi noodles healthy, cuts down on salt and adds iron


Nestle India Ltd, the local unit of Swiss packaged food company Nestle SA, on Tuesday said it is adding iron and cutting salt content in one of its most successful brands – Maggi noodles – to respond to the increasing consumer and government demands for healthier products. The company is also cutting salt in other Maggi branded products such as soups and seasonings.

The new fortified Maggi masala noodles, as the company calls them, will be available across the 3.5 million retail outlets in India where the company’s products reach over the next few weeks and the non-fortified versions will be phased out. There will not be any change in pricing.

The plan to cut down salt content in Maggi noodles is part of Nestle’s global strategy to reduce sodium, saturated fat and sugar. By 2020, Nestle wants to reduce 10% average salt across all products sold under Maggi brand. Besides, the company plans to add more vegetables and other nutrient-rich ingredients in Maggi products. It has, in the past 10 years, brought down the sodium level in its Maggi products by 32.7%, the company claimed.

“It is a step where we want to introduce products which offer healthier choices to our consumers as we simplify our ingredients and encourage home cooking. At the forefront of this drive is the commitment to reshape Maggi brand’s products to emphasize the use of familiar and common ingredients that people know and use for home cooking, from their own kitchen cupboard,” Suresh Narayanan, chairman & managing director, Nestle India, said in a statement.

In India, Nestle is starting with adding iron to Maggi masala noodles aiming to provide about 15% of the recommended dietary allowance for consumers of the product. The company claims to sell about 2.5 billion portions of Maggi masala noodles, its single-largest revenue-earner in the country every year. “Given the scale and popularity, Maggi masala noodles offer a powerful platform to address iron deficiency through the iron fortified variant,” it said in a statement.

Nestle’s move comes within four months of the country’s food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) setting up a scientific panel on “food fortification and nutrition”. The aim of the panel was to come up with guidelines to fight malnutrition in the country by making supply of fortified food mandatory for government-supported schemes such as mid-day meal at schools, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and Public Distribution System (PDS). FSSAI will implement these in collaboration with the Union ministry of women and child development.

While Nestle is probably the first company to commercially launch fortified noodles, a bunch of multinationals such as chocolate maker Mondelez International Inc., beverages maker Coca-Cola Co., food and beverages company PepsiCo Inc. and packaged goods company Unilever Plc. have announced plans to rev up portfolios with healthier products globally. Some governments have already initiated implementation of sugar taxes and putting a cap on sodium levels in food items.

Besides, consumers have been opting for more of healthier options, including organic food products lately.

In 2016, food companies refurnished about 180,000 products globally, according to a joint survey by consulting firm Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited and industry body The Consumer Goods Forum. The number was just about 23,000 in 2014.

Last week, Nestle India and eight other companies including Horlicks maker GSK Consumer Healthcare Ltd, PepsiCo India Holdings Pvt Ltd, joined hands with The Akshaya Patra Foundation and the Ministry of Women and Child Development aiming to serve 5 billion meals to children across India by 2020. The initiative is part of the government’s agenda to fight malnutrition.

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