Japanese noodles with South Indian spices

| Updated on: Jan 11, 2018

Chennai firm ties up with Japanese noodle maker

Chennai-based Japanese noodle maker Maruchan Ajinomoto India Pvt Ltd will use flavours that are hotter and spicier with a dash of Japanese punch to win over consumers in Tamil Nadu.

The company entered Tamil Nadu through joint venture partnership with Japanese noodle maker Toyo Suisan Kaisha and food seasoning maker Ajinomoto at an investment of ₹127 crore. It launched its two products under brand A&M in December 2016.

Market size

After their six-month journey in the state, the company leaders say they find Tamil Nadu full of potential and challenges. Currently, noodle market in India accounts for about 360 crore units and 90 per cent of the market is occupied by bigger players like Nestle and ITC. But the potential is huge, as per capita consumption in India is only four units, unlike in the US and Japan where per capita consumption is 14 and 49 respectively.

While India has more room to grow, it is riddled with as much challenges and more so in the company’s target market Tamil Nadu. Tsutomu Yoshimura, Managing Director, said, “Tamil Nadu is a very complex market.”

According to him, Tamil Nadu is largely traditional and acceptability of newer brands is lower than in the North.

Additionally, negative image people have come to associate with noodles in recent times has made penetration even more difficult. “But I look at it positively. I think there is huge potential,” Yoshimura said. There are over 80 lakh people in Chennai with increasing number of working women looking for options to shorten cooking time. Millennial population, who are willing to try out new food products, is going up as well.

Given the positive trend for processed food, Yoshimura feels all that is needed is the right offering and flavours that cater to the local market. Though educating people will take more time, Yoshimura said, “We are in no hurry as we in for a long haul.”

Different quality

What makes A&M different? First is the differentiation in noodles type. Unlike the noodle available in the market, A&M noodles are flat and sturdy like the Japanese yakisoba noodles. Flatness absorbs the masala better, because of which the noodles are not soggy when cooked, said Atsushi Oda, Deputy Managing Director. Since Japanese are not used to spicy food, Yoshimura said their employees help with taste-testing to alter the taste to suit Tamil’s palette.

Yoshimura is very specific when he says ‘Tamil palette’. He said, “In India, each state is like a different country.” What works in Tamil Nadu may not work for Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh. “So when we say localise, we mean it,” he added. That is why the company is in no hurry to branch out of Tamil Nadu.

The products are available in Chennai, Coimbatore, Salem, Tiruchi and Madurai through Ajinomoto’s distribution channel at a total of 15,000 outlets. The focus is mostly on kirana stores as almost 90 per cent of noodles sale come from them, Yoshimura said. The company plans to enter into cup noodle and soupy noodle category and non-vegetarian noodle variety in coming years.

Published on May 22, 2017
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