While Wai Wai pushes its instant namkeen style avatar, Saffola Oodles promises a more honest preparation time - 5 minutes - as opposed to Maggi's 2...
Apart from the taste factor, Nestle markets its flagship noodles brand Maggi with the proposition that it can be prepared in two minutes. Maggi’s fairly older rival Wai Wai, the noodles brand from Nepal-based CG Foods, sells itself on the back of the proposition that it can be eaten straight out of the pack, without cooking, effectively lowering the preparation time to zero minutes.
Recently, FMCG major Marico entered the noodles market with Saffola Oodles. The Oodles pack prominently says that it takes a (more honest) time frame of five minutes to be plate-ready.
Noodles, as a food item, found its place in the Indian kitchen due to its promise of convenience. The meal does not require the elaborate style of Indian cooking – it is quick, and needs only water and heat.
Wai Wai has taken this to a new level, it removes the water, heat and the few minutes from the equation, and it seems to be working for the brand. The brand claims that it holds over 60 per cent share in its key market of Northeast India.
Wai Wai was officially launched in India in August 2005, with the tagline ‘Munch it, Soup it, Lunch it!’. It was all about the various formats of consumption and the assurance that it is as filling as any other noodle out there.
However, Maggi gets occasionally pulled up in general conversation for ‘false marketing’. Nobody prepares Maggi in two minutes. The brand has stuck with this proposition throughout its close-to-four-decade-long journey in India. Maggi was launched in India in the early 1980s, with the tagline ‘Fast to Cook, Good to Eat’ – convenience backed by taste.
Marico decided to make Nestle’s case more prominent, albeit indirectly. Five minutes could just be that minimum acceptable timeline for prepping the noodle meal. Otherwise, Marico’s noodles carry forward Saffola’s promise of health – no ‘maida’ and made with whole grain oats.
Also, Wai Wai’s trick was to turn the sloppy noodle into a crisp namkeen like bhujiya. The brand does sell its noodles in a broken down bhujiya format. (That’s material for another upcoming article, though.)
We asked experts about what they made of the 0-5 minute drift.
Food columnist and brand consultant Kalyan Karmakar says that Wai Wai’s ‘snacking on the go’ proposition counters the namkeens, rather than a hot plate of Maggi.
“Maggi competes against the pohas, upmas and dosas because Indians like hot snacks. In its cooked avatar, Wai Wai will have to fight with the Maggis and the Yippees on the flavours, distribution and pricing front.”
Karmakar mentions that Saffola Oodles is a more significant movement because it fits in with health trends against consuming refined flour and the preference for whole grains, such as oats and millets.
“Saffola, as a brand, is associated with healthy food. It’s a national-level brand and has more distribution muscle than Wai Wai. It’s a movement Nestle itself was cognizant of because a few years back, it launched ‘Atta’ Maggi, which was whole wheat versus refined flour. As far as 5 minutes are concerned, in reality, Maggi takes more than 2 minutes in any case.”
Ruchira Jain, a consumer behaviour expert and founder of Elevate Insights, a strategic consulting and market research firm (former VP consumer insights, Swiggy), says that Wai Wai already has a certain following of its own. It's an existing consumer habit, with some consumers eating Wai Wai without cooking.
Jain, however, mentions that the pull of this category is largely around the masala taste and the texture of the noodles. “This proposition, if anything, seeks to gain share of snacking as many times, the consumer is looking for RTE snack versus a cooked snack. It may help attract new customers for them versus just gaining share versus Maggi. They have a distinctive masala and noodles texture, which has found a strong appeal among consumers.”
Karmakar also reiterates Jain’s view, saying that the Indian food market is driven entirely by taste, which is what Maggi is going after.
“Being a 40-year-old legacy brand, in a given household, it’s three generations (grandparents, parents and kids) who’ve consumed Maggi. It’s hard to knock-off such a legacy. With new entrants coming in, it’s the consumers who are the winners.”
N Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research, says that Wai Wai has been trying to break the Maggi stronghold for years, but it can’t be compared with Nestle in terms of muscle.
“But it (Wai Wai) has built up its distribution/retail reach. The smaller brands are in a way punning on Maggi’s ‘2 minute’ proposition. In such cases, the smaller players always have the advantage. And, they will win if the big brand responds. The underdog gets the advantage because it increases noticeability. It’s an irritant for the larger player,” Chandramouli concludes.