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Nestle India has begun the long journey to reclaim Maggi’s lost empire

AP Photo/Anupam Nath, file
Time to think out of the box.
Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Nestle’s once wildly popular Maggi noodles is readying a comeback in India.

Nearly three months after the Indian subsidiary of the Swiss food giant found itself entangled in a crisis that questioned the safety of the product, Nestle India launched a series of advertisements on Aug. 25 to get things back on track.

Tugging at the heartstrings of Maggi lovers, the company released the ads on social media, with the hashtag #WeMissYouToo. Maggi has been banned in the country by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) since June 5.

Here are the three ads, all featuring young men without the apparent ability to cook a meal themselves:

“These short films reflect the spontaneity and affection between consumers and Maggi,” a spokesperson for Nestle told Quartz in an email. ”We are making efforts to get Maggi noodles back on the shelves and have been overwhelmed by the messages of love and support that we are receiving each day. Such messages strengthen our resolve to be back with our beloved consumers.”

For years, Maggi relied on celebrity endorsements to drive sales. Some of them—including actors Amitabh Bachchan, Preity Zinta and Madhuri Dixit-Nene—got caught up in the crisis when a local court in the state of Bihar asked the police to file a First Information Report (FIR) against them for promoting the brand.

Maggi was banned after government tests proved excessive lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) in the noodle. That came as a big blow to the company, which had been clocking double-digit growth in India for nearly a decade.

In the aftermath of the crisis, Nestle was upbraided for not doing enough to defend the product when questions were being asked.

Finally in June, Nestle India hired the US-based public relations firm APCO Worldwide, and even replaced its India head. Suresh Narayanan, who was brought in from Nestle Philippines, is the first Indian to head the India operation after 16 years. The company also flew down its global CEO, Paul Bulcke, to address the media and allay fears about the safety of its products.

Despite all that, the Indian government enforced the ban on the noodles and the company was forced to destroy 27,000 tonnes of Maggi noodles, worth some Rs320 crore ($50 million). The Indian government also asked Nestle to pay Rs640 crore ($99 million) in damages under a consumer protection act.

During the April-June quarter, the company reported net loss of Rs64.4 crore, its first quarterly loss in at least 17 years. According to Brand Finance, a brand valuation consultancy, the fiasco could have wiped out over $200 million (Rs1,283.6 crore) of Maggi’s brand value.

In August, Nestle finally found some reprieve when the Bombay high court set aside the ban imposed by the FSSAI on the sale of Maggi noodles and asked for retesting at three laboratories.

“By the time we get everything done (all clearances), it will be middle of September. I can tell you this quarter no, unlikely,” Narayanan said on Aug. 23. “Subsequent quarter, we will try (to bring back Maggi).”

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