It seems instant noodles are making their way onto breakfast tables across India as new research from Mintel, the world’s leading market intelligence agency, reveals that almost two in five (38%) Indians have had instant noodles for breakfast in the past three months*. On the other hand, only one in five (20%) have had it as a snack between meals, while two-thirds (64%) of Indians have had instant noodles in general during the same time period.
Given today’s busier consumer lifestyles, instant noodles are finding favour among time-pressed Indians, especially the younger cohort. Mintel research reveals that two in five (41%) Indians aged 18-34 associate instant noodles with time saving, while over a quarter (28%) agree that they would like packaged breakfast options that have a short preparation/wait time.
Natasha Kumar, Food & Drink Analyst, India, at Mintel, said:
“While instant noodles may not be native to India, its penetration is still relatively high among consumers. Instant noodles have traditionally been positioned as a snack in India, but our research indicates that brands may be missing out on an important occasion: breakfast. It is common for Indians to opt for hot and savoury foods at breakfast time, potentially why instant noodles have proved popular in the morning. This opens up opportunities for brands to target the breakfast occasion and introduce more breakfast-related cues to instant noodle products. Moreover, our research shows that time-saving is something consumers associate with instant noodles. Aligning with younger Indians wanting quick, packaged breakfast options, instant noodles brands should position and communicate the product as the go-to hot, savoury and convenient breakfast option.”
Bring added value to the bowl
Despite being popular, there exists several negative connotations towards the instant noodles category. In fact, some Indians believe that instant noodles are low in nutrition (20%), and high in salt (15%). Meanwhile, Mintel research highlights that among instant noodle eaters, a quarter (25%) add extra ingredients to the noodles while cooking them and three in five (60%) say that they are willing to pay more for noodles that come with added vegetables.
“The time is ripe for brands to eliminate some of the unfavourable connotations towards the instant noodles category by adding value to the products. For one, instant noodles have been associated with being low in nutrition—a key reason why a significant portion of consumers add more ingredients to the dish.”
“Innovation is one way to tackle this; for instance, manufacturers can include better-for-you ingredients in the noodle base, and introduce more vegetables and fibre to the product. They can even include additional healthy powders like pea protein in a sachet format that allows consumers to enhance their noodles with nutrition in a customisable fashion. Innovations in instant noodles can effectively tackle the taste-health paradox revolving around snacks, particularly through marrying indulgence with nutrition and other health benefits. To elevate the image of instant noodles, brands need to show consumers how these products are adding value to their diet; for example, by clearly communicating claims such as ‘added fibre’, ‘added vegetable’ or ‘reduced cholesterol’ on-pack,” explained Natasha.
Going beyond masala
It seems the good old masala flavour makes up a significant proportion of the instant noodles market. According to Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD), 42% of instant noodle launches in India in 2018 were masala flavoured. However, Mintel research shows that Indians are opening up to try new flavours. Although from a small base, flavours like tom yum and mushroom each accounted for 3% of Indian instant noodle launches in 2018, up from 0% in 2016. What’s more, 53% of Indian consumers say they are willing to pay more for instant noodles that come in new flavours.
“Our research shows that most instant noodles in India are masala flavoured. However, to increase consumption among Indian consumers, brands should look at introducing more innovative flavours. While it is still important for instant noodle brands to keep masala as a base for their product portfolio, they should also introduce globally-inspired flavours to induce more trial among consumers. This also opens up scope for limited edition versions of novel-flavoured noodles. The rise in flavours such as mushroom and tom yum—the latter being a flavour of Thailand—is also an indication of how consumers are now more open to trying new flavours,” concluded Natasha.