Two years after the company faced one of its worst crises after food safety agencies red-flagged the levels of lead and MSG in Maggi, the dominant instant noodle brand in the country, Switzerland-based Nestle SA has now moved to make its products healthier by cutting down on sugar, salt and calories.
A week after its global commitment to make its products healthier, Nestle has extended the measures to India which will see the world’s biggest foods company reduce salt and sodium content in its Maggi noodles, cut sugar by about 10 per cent in KitKat chocolate and dairy products, and step up portion control in Munch chocolates, an Economic Times report said today.
The move is part of the company’s global commitments to reduce sugars, sodium, saturated fats and trans-fats, introduce nutritious products, step up food fortification, remove artificial colours, restrict marketing to children, step up nutrition data on packs at points of sale and online, and disseminate information on portion control.
Nestle’s ‘health drive’ in India is not limited to these products – it will cut across product lines and categories. For dairy items such as yoghurt and infant cereal Cerelac, Nestle will now make low-sugar and low-salt variants.
A statement on the Nestle website says the company will gradually increase guidance on portions through products, packs and dispensers.
“We will extend our guidance on portions to our consumer recipes, and relevant teenager and adult products by 2020,” the statement reads, adding that by the same year, it will remove all artificial colours from its products.
Nestle has said that over 99 per cent of fats and oils in its foods and beverages, starting January 1 this year, will not contain trans-fats across products and markets. By 2020, Nestle will reduce added sugar by 5 per cent and sodium by 10 per cent.
The company said that by 2016-end, it had reduced added sugar by 8 per cent and sodium by 10.5 per cent in its foods and beverages.
While the company maintains that its global programme is based on its commitment to provide consumers “choices for balanced diets and active lifestyles”, its extension to the health measures to India have a different backdrop.
Nestles biggest brand Maggi instant noodles was taken off the shelves by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in 2015 over allegations that it contained lead beyond permissible limits. Nestle was also charged with mislabelling of flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Although Maggi noodles made a comeback into the market within six months and currently commands a 60 per cent market share in instant noodles, the damage to the brand had been done. Rivals such as ITC’s Sunfeast Yippee and HUL’s Knorr gained market share in the interim.
Numbers too tell a similar story. Nestle’s India unit reported a decline of 8.66 per cent in net profit to Rs 167.3 crore in the December quarter.
Nestle India believes that 2017 was likely to be good for the company since it is positioned for a big urban play.
“We are looking at fortification in our mass consumption products as well and are committed to removing artificial colours,” a company spokesperson told ET, adding that the company was providing consumers with nutrition information on food labels, guidance on daily intake for energy and key nutrients and portion guidance.
By 2020, the company proposes to provide detailed product nutrition facts on its packs as well as on e-commerce websites.