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INDIA

Nestlé’s Maggi noodles return to Indian shelves

Nestlé's hugely popular Maggi noodles returned on Monday to shelves in India five months after the government banned them over lead levels, in one of the biggest crises to hit the Swiss food giant.

Nestlé's Maggi noodles return to Indian shelves
Photo: AFP

India's food safety watchdog banned the noodles nationwide in June after test results showed packets exceeded legal limits of lead, while criticizing Nestlé for failing to list flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG) on labels.
   
But the Bombay High Court, the highest court in the western city now known as Mumbai, overturned the ruling two months later, calling it “arbitrary” and ordered fresh tests.
   
Vevey-based Nestlé said last month those tests had found that Maggi noodles were safe to eat.

It has restarted production at three of its five India plants.
   
Nestlé lost more than 75 million francs ($74.7 million) over the ban, which forced it to destroy more than 37,000 tonnes of the noodles, India's leading brand.
   
“What we have been through has been like a life crisis for a human being,” Nestle India Managing Director Suresh Narayanan told reporters on Monday.
   
“It will need investments to nurture back the brand into the health that it was,” he said of Maggi, which previously accounted for about 30 percent of the company's Indian sales.
   
Maggi's return comes as Indians prepare to celebrate the Hindu festival of Diwali, a time when food shopping is at its peak.
   
Fans of the brand, which had 80 percent of India's instant noodle market before the crisis, reacted with delight on Twitter.
   
Sony Das posted: “What better way to celebrate this Diwali . . . #WelcomeBackMAGGI wid Maggi our lost appetites are also back.. Luv U Maggi”.
   
The noodles will initially return in 100 cities compared with more than 400 previously and in just one flavour, Masala.
   
Nestlé's Narayanan on Monday questioned the accuracy of the initial laboratory tests, saying India's regime for heavy metal testing in food was “unreliable” and called for an overhaul.
   
He left open the question of whether Nestlé would take legal action against the food safety regulator, saying the company had simply been “focused” on getting the product back on shelves.
   
Nestlé has always maintained the product was safe to eat, and has continued to sell it in other countries.
   
Nestlé India's stock was up 0.2 percent on the Bombay Stock Exchange in afternoon trade on Monday.
 

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NESTLE

‘Unlimited resources’: Switzerland’s Nestle goes vegan

Swiss food giant Nestle, which has made billions with dairy products, said Monday it will host start-ups that want to develop vegetarian alternatives.

'Unlimited resources': Switzerland's Nestle goes vegan
Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Nestle could thus find itself at the forefront of a sector that has strong growth potential, an analyst commented.

It plans to open its research and development (R&D) centre in Konolfingen, Switzerland to “start-ups, students and scientists” a statement said.

In addition to testing sustainable dairy products, the group plans to encourage work on plant-based dairy alternatives, it added.

Chief executive Mark Schneider was quoted as saying that “innovation in milk products and plant-based dairy alternatives is core to Nestle's portfolio strategy.”

The group unveiled a vegetable-based milk that had already been developed with the process, and technical director Stefan Palzer told AFP it planned to focus on 100-200 such projects a year.

Jon Cox, an analyst at Kepler Cheuvreux, noted that while Nestle had missed some consumer trends in the past, it has now “taken something of a lead in the plant-based alternative market for food”.

And “given its pretty much unlimited resources, Nestle is going to come out one of the winners in the space,” Cox forecast in an e-mail.

Nestle said that “internal, external and mixed teams” would work at the R&D centre over six-month periods.

Nestle would provide “expertise and key equipment such as small to medium-scale production equipment to facilitate the rapid upscaling of products for a test launch in a retail environment,” it added.

The Swiss food giant has long been known for its dairy products, but faced a boycott in the 1970s for allegedly discouraging mothers in developing countries from breastfeeding even though it was cheaper and more nutritious than powdered formula.

On Monday, the group's statement also underscored that the research initiative was part of its commitment to help fight global warming.

“As a company, we have set ambitious climate goals. This is part of our promise to develop products that are good for you and good for the planet,” it said.

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