At the end of May 2015, India’s Food safety administration (FDA) ordered Nestlé India to recall its popular 2-minute Maggi noodles after tests showed that the product contained high levels of lead and MSG. Joanna Delaney, Digital Marketing Executive at Digital Strategy Consulting, looks at how the situation developed, and how Nestlé reacted and managed the situation using multiple digital channels.
21st May 2015 – Indian state orders recall of Maggi noodles
Indian food inspectors order Nestlé India to recall a batch of Maggi Noodles from the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh claiming that tests have found Maggi instant noodles “unsafe and hazardous” and accused Nestlé of failing to comply with food safety law.
The initial response from the global FMCG Company rejected the accusation that the noodles were unsafe and said on their website and social media accounts that there had been no order to recall any products.
A statement on their website said that “The quality and safety of our products are the top priorities for our Company. We have in place strict food safety and quality controls at out Maggi factories… We do not add MSG to Maggi Noodles, and glutamate, if present, may come from naturally occurring sources. We are surprised with the content supposedly found in the sample as we monitor the lead content regularly as a part of the regulatory requirements.”
1st June – Nestlé re-assures customers its noodles are safe
Nestlé continues to keep its customers up to date on the investigation into the safety of Maggi noodles in India. On the official Maggi noodles India Facebook page, Twitter and website, Nestlé states that extensive testing reveals no excess lead in Maggi noodles.
— Maggi India (@MaggiIndia) June 1, 2015
2nd June – Nestlé interacts with customers on social media thanking them for their support
Nestlé uses Twitter and Facebook to answer customers questions about the levels of MSG and lead found in their noodles. The company continues to re-assure customers that the noodles are safe and that they are a transparent company working closely with authorities in India to resolve the issue. As well as this Nestlé explains the science behind the tests, what lead and MSG are and gives an informative breakdown of the ingredients in their product.
@MaggiIndia makes an impressive effort to respond to every tweet from customers on this issue with a pre-prepared statement explaining that lead occurs naturally in soil and water.
— Maggi India (@MaggiIndia) June 2, 2015
3rd June – Nestlé launches a FAQ page on the official Nestlé website
Nestlé continues to engage in an active dialogue with customers on social media channels Facebook and Twitter. As well as this the company created a FAQ page on the official Nestlé website to answer all questions.
Here’s what you need to know tweet – retweeted 846 times:
— Maggi India (@MaggiIndia) June 4, 2015
4th June – Nestlé backtracks and recalls all Maggi noodles from India
After re-assuring customers that its noodles are safe, the brand does a U-turn and decides to recall Maggi noodles produced in India. Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke spoke to the media and said that “We are working with authorities to clarify the situation and in the meantime Nestlé will be withdrawing Maggi noodles from shelves.”
P. Bulcke "We are taking MAGGI Noodles off the shelves till the situation is clarified"
— Nestlé India (@NestleIndia) June 5, 2015
16th June – Nestlé to destroy withdrawn noodles
Nestlé decided to destroy more than £32million ($50million) worth of Maggi Noodles in India after they were deemed unsafe by regulators.
3rd July – Testing on Maggi noodles abroad finds levels of lead are within food safety levels
After the food safety scare in India Maggi noodles have been tested in other parts of the world to reassure consumers that they are safe. Results from noodles tested in the UK found that levels of lead in the product are within EU levels. Shortly after the UK results were published, Canada also cleared Maggi noodles as safe.
Overview- using social media for damage limitation
When Maggi noodles, one of Nestlé’s top products was deemed unsafe in India, all eyes were on Nestlé to see how they would respond and manage the situation. Initially Nestlé defended its product and rejected all claims that its noodles were unsafe, and they did this on all digital channels.
Nestlé took to social media, Facebook and multiple Twitter accounts (main Nestlé account, Nestlé India, Maggi India) to reassure customers that its product was safe. Nestlé responded directly to all comments on social media. As well as this Nestlé created a section on their main website to keep customers updated.
As the pressure grew on the global company, in a press conference Nestlé’s CEO said that all Maggi noodles in India would be withdrawn from shelves in order to comply with regulators.
Again Nestlé used digital channels to explain to customers why this decision had been made and to answer all their questions. Nestlé also explained the science behind the reason for the ban in simple terms so customers could understand.
The scare was a huge blow to the company, which has been selling its Maggi products for over three decades in India with 80% of the country’s instant noodle market. However, through smart use of social media during the crisis, the brand limited further damage by reassuring and informing customers to encourage them to continue buying the noodles in the future.
August 2015 Update
After a difficult summer for Nestlé India the company finally receives some positive news after an Indian government approved laboratory has found that Maggi noodles do in fact comply with national food safety standards.
India’s food minister has slammed the FSSIA (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) for creating an environment of fear in the food industry. Meanwhile, Maggi noodles have been cleared in many foreign countries; Nestlé also received permission from the Bombay High Court to export Indian Maggi noodles.
By Joanna Delaney
Digital Marketing Executive
Digital Strategy Consulting