Nestle emerges from Maggi mire as noodles go back on shelves

Company rolls out huge PR offensive to announce Maggi being back on sale, hitting all spots where it was first found lacking

Maggi Masala noodles are back on shelves after the June scandal (Sixth6sense/Wikimedia Commons)

Nestle has made their final attempt to put the Maggi noodles scandal behind them by announcing that the product will return to supermarket shelves from today.

In a statement on its website last week, Nestle India said following court-ordered tests from three accredited laboratories on its Maggi noodles, all results show that the products "have been cleared with lead much below permissible limits".

That has been followed by an announcement, timed on the eve of Deepawali, that Maggi noodles have returned to the market, although the company is still seeking permission in some Indian states.

Having been criticised over its initial response to the crisis, Nestle India’s latest release makes significant effort to reconnect with its consumers on an emotional level, highlighting the Hindu religious festival and Nestle’s 32-year legacy in India.

"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! Maggi Noodles has very special relationships and strong emotional bonds with its consumers across the country and I am confident that our bonds will grow even stronger," said Suresh Narayanan, chairman of Nestle India.

"I would like to thank all our suppliers, distributors, retailers, and millions of consumers from every corner of India and overseas for their support, love, reassurance, and for being there during our difficult period. Maggi Noodles rightfully belongs to them and I feel happy to be able to give back to them their familiar taste during the auspicious and festive Deepawali season."

Nestle was engulfed in one of the biggest ever food scandals in June after its Maggi noodles, one of India’s most successful and popular snacks – were said by authorities to contain hazardous levels of lead.

The product was banned by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India – the ban was lifted in August - and more than 400 million packets of noodles were recalled and destroyed.

It is Nestle’s largest-ever product recall and one of the biggest in the food industry to date.

Since then Nestle has been on a determined mission to repair the damage, and today’s announcement repeatedly emphasises that Maggi noodles "are 100 percent safe".

In a bid to further reassure consumers, Nestle India previously highlighted that it has conducted more than 3,500 tests representing over 200 million noodle packs, and all have come back clean.

"The health and safety of consumers is and will always remain [the] highest priority at Nestle," the statement said.

Initially slow to respond to the plethora of outrage from consumers on social media, Nestle India has immediately published it’s latest announcement on Twitter this time round.

Going one step further, Nestle India says it has partnered with Snapdeal, India’s largest online shopping portal, to create special offers for consumers.

Syed Hafeez, associate director at EastWest PR, told PRWeek Asia that Nestle has "to win back consumer confidence" and that this latest announcement ticks many of the boxes to do that.

"The brand now needs to take to an aggressive marketing strategy, particularly through social media to connect with consumers directly," he said. "People still have a strong emotional connection with the brand and I am sure Nestle’s efforts to reassure the consumers will be well received.

"Nothing works better than gifts to win consumers’ love and affection for the brand again, and what better time than Deepawali season?"

Sharif Rangnekar, at Integral PR, said transparency and giveaways will only work if Nestle has a "multi-touchpoint strategy that covers advertising, social and digital besides point of sale communication".

"I assume Nestle has a plan on this," he told PRWeek Asia. "After all, the consumer is in so many places and needs to know that Maggi noodles are back with all that makes them safe to consume."

Nitin Mantri, CEO of Avian Media, said Nestle's announcement is both welcome and reassuring for consumers. "Data is indisputable, and given that they received validation from all laboratories
mandated by the Bombay High Court, it is establishes Maggi’s claim of being safe."

He added that Nestle's next step should be to use its significant brand loyalty to reconnect with consumers.

"Everyone has a Maggi story to share and if my social media timeline is anything to go by, most seem to waiting to welcome Maggi back into their lives. Third party advocacy is what every brand aspires to; Maggi enjoys that position, and they simply need to share it."

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