The recent Maggi debacle has, primarily, aroused serious cravings for the 2 minute noodles, and, has made apparent, the unstable nature that possesses us humans, which is more often than not guided by current and pre-existing hegemonic discourses. It has also raised another relevant issue; Maggi, a much loved food item, that has over a period of time, become the nomenclature for instant noodles in India is now topmost on most people’s hate list – what does the future hold for Maggi?
I have, for as long as I can remember, been extremely fond of the 2 minute wonder of taste. Fondness would actually be an understatement. At the risk of disclosing my age, I have been in love with Maggi, for donkey’s years now.
The nights when my siblings and I would have Maggi for dinner, requesting our lovely mother to pack us some Maggi for lunch and being turned down, the first time that I learnt how to cook Maggi, are some of my dearest Maggi memories. The fondest of all my Maggi memories though, is from my days at boarding school; waiting in anticipation, every Saturday morning, to be served a piping hot plate of Maggi! These noodles have never let me down. They have stuck by me in the toughest of times. As a nearly broke Masters student, living on my own; on the nights when I stood face to face with an empty pantry, scrambled eggs and Maggi would be the chef’s special.
But, having been banned in nearly 14 states, the backlash that Maggi has been facing so far does not seem to be slowing down. It’s a tricky state of affairs that the producers Nestlé have got themselves into.
Going back a few years, I am reminded of the Dairy Milk worm controversy. Backed by a strong PR team, along with enormous advertising budgets, Cadbury was able to wriggle its way out of the muddy mess, especially taking into consideration that Dairy Milk has never been a nomenclature for chocolates in the country.
The willingness to forgive Cadbury, I guess, boiled down to the association of Dairy Milk with joyful moments – Dairy Milk has always been symbolic of the Khaas Swad of Zindagi. However, consumers were quick to disregard this khaas swad for other alternatives, until they were given some much needed clarity from the makers of the chocolate. Cadbury was quick to come to its defence, and thus save face. Nestlé on the other hand, has been playing it a little too cool, for its own good.
Yes, Nestlé has stood up in its defence, but, being one of the global FMCG giants, Nestlé’s approach towards the issue has been rather sluggish. This has given its consumers good enough reason to question, not only the safety of Maggi, but also the integrity of Nestlé as a company. Being well aware of the popularity of its product, Nestlé’s response should have been more robust.
With an existing discourse in place regarding Maggi’s status as an unhealthy food item, the current debacle has triggered an array of negative responses towards the formally, much loved noodles. The ratio of those who still love it, compared to those who don’t, is quite disparate.
However, to say that Maggi would not be able to bounce back would be a rather hasty judgement.
Take Coca Cola, for instance; globally known and acknowledged to be gravely unhealthy, the brand has a flourishing presence in the FMCG market all over the world. I attribute this loyalty to Coca-Cola’s brilliant marketing and advertising campaigns, where for years they have been selling happiness and not a soft drink; probably an approach that Nestlé should consider?
As of now, the future of Maggi looks bleak, but my hopes are still alive. Even though consumers are well aware of the health risks associated with these noodles, it will be quite a challenge for each individual to let go of their emotional association with Maggi.