New Delhi: Nestle India Ltd, the local unit of Swiss packaged foods maker Nestle SA, is adding iron and cutting salt content in one of its most successful brands—Maggi noodles. The company is responding to a consumer and government push for healthier products, said Nestle India, which will also reduce salt content in other Maggi-branded products such as soups and seasonings.

The new, fortified Maggi masala noodles will be available over the next few weeks across the 3.5 million retail outlets in India where Nestle products are sold, and the non-fortified versions will be phased out. Pricing will not change.

The plan to reduce salt content in Maggi noodles is part of Nestle’s global strategy to cut sodium, saturated fats and sugar in its products. By 2020, Nestle wants to reduce salt content across all Maggi-branded products by 10%, and add more vegetables and other nutrient-rich ingredients. The company claims that it has brought down the sodium content in its Maggi products by 32.7% in the past 10 years.

“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," said Suresh Narayanan, chairman and managing director, Nestle India, in a statement.

In India, Nestle is starting by adding iron to Maggi masala noodles, aiming to provide about 15% of the recommended dietary allowance for consumers of the product. Nestle claims to sell about 2.5 billion portions of Maggi masala noodles, its single largest revenue earner in India, every year.

“Given the scale and popularity, Maggi masala noodles offer a powerful platform to address iron deficiency through the iron-fortified variant," the company statement said.

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 panel is to come up with guidelines to fight malnutrition in the country by making supply of fortified food mandatory for government-backed schemes such as mid-day meals at schools, integrated child development services and the public distribution system.

FSSAI will implement these guidelines in collaboration with the Union ministry of women and child development.

Multinational food and beverage companies such as Mondelez International Inc., Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc. and Unilever Plc. have announced plans to reinforce their product portfolios with healthier products globally. Some governments have already started levying sugar taxes and putting a cap on sodium levels in food items.

In India, consumers have been opting for more healthy packaged foods, including organic food products.

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

“This is a general trend worldwide. This is more of how companies are responding to changing consumer demand triggered by health consciousness. This is completely market driven. Almost all companies in the food sector are looking to continuously innovate and they’ll do such things where there is scope. And consumers get healthier products at the same cost, thus better value," said Dhanraj Bhagat, partner, Grant Thornton India Llp.

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