Maggi was back on the shelves on Monday five months after the popular instant noodles were banned in the country for higher than permissible levels of lead in one of the biggest crises to hit Nestle.
The Swiss food giant’s best-seller in India, Maggi noodles returned in the same bright yellow packaging and at a price of Rs 12 for a single pack as was before June 5 when the country’s food regulator ordered their recall for unsafe levels of lead and failing to mention monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a chemical flavour enhancer.
“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,” Nestle India chairman and managing director Suresh Nayaranan said.
It will be few months before the popular snack will be available across the country, as the ‘masala’ version has been relaunched in 100 cities towns, including Delhi.
All samples of Maggi Noodles Masala were cleared by three food-testing labs as mandated by the Bombay high court, Nestle India said. The tests were ordered by the court as it overturned the ban, calling it “arbitrary”.
“The rollout has begun today. It has been a challenging period for the Nestle Organisation, and therefore, there is a feeling of satisfaction at bringing back Maggi noodles,” Nestle India said in a regulatory filing. The company took a hit of Rs 450 crore and was forced to destroy more than 30,000 tonnes of the quick-cooking noodles.
“It’s just a few hours of launch, but the response of consumer is overwhelming,” said Narayanan.
The noodles will not be available in Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Orissa, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Punjab and Uttrakhand, as local governments are yet to lift the ban after the Uttar Pradesh government ordered a recall in May, triggering a chain reaction across the country.
Nestle has also entered into an exclusive arrangement with Snapdeal, an ecommerce platform, to sell Maggi from November 12 though “registration” began on Monday.
“We have sold almost half of the cartons in the last two hours. Mostly youngsters have taken the packets,” said Manisha Chawla, who owns a grocery store in Moti Bagh in south Delhi. A carton contains 100 packets.
But, rebuilding trust will be a challenge. “I may not allow my granddaughter to consume Maggi. Though lab reports are clean, but what was the basis for the reports that came earlier and claimed higher lead levels?” said Gauri Kapoor, 46, a housewife from Delhi’s Nanakpura.
Nestle India still faces a Rs 640 crore class action suit filed by the government for allegedly misleading the public and indulging in unfair trade practices.
(With agency inputs)