New Delhi: The news is that Nestle is planning to Maggi Noodles back on the shelves of retail stores by the end of the year. The company was forced to destroy nearly 30000 tons of Maggi Noodles, and took a hit of Rs 450 crore, but got a reprieve when the Bombay High Court ruled in its favour against the ban on Maggi imposed by various state governments based on lab tests by the FSSAI, with some conditions, which the company says it intends to fulfill in letter and spirit.
“We will try and target something that is better than that. My desire is to do it before that but let’s see,” Nestle India Managing Director Suresh Narayanan told PTI in an interaction when asked whether Maggi noodles could be back in the market by start of the next year.
He said, as per court directives, this quarter it would go in for testing of Maggi samples at three independent laboratories in Punjab, Hyderabad and Jaipur which are accredited with National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
“By the time we get everything done (all clearances), it will be middle of September. I can tell you this quarter no, unlikely. Subsequent quarter, we will try (to bring back Maggi),” Narayanan said.
He said the company has to test the Maggi samples within six weeks and after that it would start manufacturing and then the noodles would be tested again.
The Company clarified that it would not change the ingredients but add value to it, with more variants. “what has worked for 30 years” must work in future too, although the company would continue to work on innovation and add more variants in future.
Acknowledging that the ban has ‘dented’ the company, Narayanan said the company has to win back consumer confidence and will “spend aggressively” on rebuilding the brand from a “zero” level through customer engagement activities and advertisements.
When asked if the company would consider seeking damages from food regulators on the back of Bombay High Court judgement, Narayanan remained non-committal said the company’s focus would be to bring back Maggi as soon as possible, look ahead and move on while working together with authorities.
But trouble is not over for the Company. The Consumer Affairs Ministry has filed a class action suit against Nestle India seeking about Rs 640 crore in damages for alleged unfair trade practices, false labeling and misleading advertisements. It was for the first time that the ministry dragged a company to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) using a provision in the nearly three-decade-old Consumer Protection Act.
On questions raised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) that why did Nestle destroy Maggi if it was safe and not export it, he said: “There was some confusion in the mind of consumers. We took a call that consumer trust is most important for us, we will withdraw everything. Once you withdraw what do you do do? Either you change the packaging and put it back in the market or you destroy it.”
He said a lot of consumers at some stage had started asking the question about monosodium glutamate (MSG) as to whether it is an added chemical or does it occur naturally.
“We explained that glutamic acid naturally exists in a lot of food products. We don’t add it as a chemical or additive,” he said. The company had removed ‘no added MSG’ label from its packs when the controversy broke out in June.
On allegations of difference in Maggi’s export and domestic consumption quality, Narayanan said: “Difference in exported product and Indian product is only of packaging. It is very difficult to export (Maggi meant for consumption in India) as the packaging is different in every country.”