Demand drives noodles sector in Northeast India
The noodles business in the Northeast is in a high growth mode with companies expanding operations and dishing out newer varieties of the popular processed cereal product.
In fact, Nepal-based Chaudhary Group, famous for its Wai Wai brand and which is the number two in the country, is adding one more plant in Assam, even as younger players are concentrating on quality. The company is number one in the Northeast, having a 65 per cent share in the market.
“It will be a six-million-packs-per-day factory and come up at Silchar,” G.P. Sah, chief executive officer of the company, told The Telegraph. It currently has a factory at Chaygaon in Kamrup district, which produces nine lakh packs per day.
The company, which has a 16 per cent market share in the over Rs 1,300-crore noodles market in the country, has three factories with a combined capacity of 18 lakh packs per day.
Wai Wai has been in the Northeast market from the early 1990s. Earlier, it was exported from Nepal. “Its production in India started in Sikkim in 2006 and the production base was further expanded to Assam in 2009 and to Rudrapur (Uttarakhand) in 2011. This helped the brand to become closer to its customers,” Sah said.
Noodles are value-added items made from flour. Among processed cereal products in India, noodles have a share of about 45 per cent in terms of output and constitute the largest segment in this sector.
Sah said the noodles market was growing by 20 per cent annually in India and the Northeast is no different. Wai Wai has a more established consumer base in the Northeast, Sikkim, Bengal and North India, compared other parts of the country.
“We are the leading players in the Northeast in the noodles category. People of the region are looking for convenience and flavours in food products. We aspire to go with the changing trend and serve our consumers with world-class noodles. As a company, we have 28 years of experience in noodles production and distribution and we offer a range of noodles, which no one offers in the country. In the next five years, our sales will grow three times and we will employ more than 2,000 people in Assam. At present, our employee strength is more than 600,” he said.
The company has exported noodles from Assam and currently offers ready-to-eat noodles, snack noodles and noodle bhujia, among others. “We are going to introduce some new flavours soon,” he said.
The operations in the Northeast are important for the company, as it earns 50 per cent of its revenue here.
On the entry of newer players in the market, Sah admitted the competition was going to get tougher in the times to come. Apart from established brands such as Nestle’s Maggi, Nissin Foods’ Top Ramen, GlaxoSmithKline’s Foodles, a number of new players, including local firms, have forayed into the Northeast. “However, we are technologically ahead of others and have vast experience of managing this business even in an intensely competitive scenario. As on today, the range of noodles we offer is unmatched in the country.”
On the other hand, AA Nutritions, a local company, said the future of the business lay in quality, and if manufacturers stuck to best quality practices, then consumption was bound to increase.
A company official said it had been instrumental in introducing the first ready to eat brown noodles in the region. “Though our capacity is very small in comparison to the Chaudhary Group, we have been able to create a niche segment for our Yummy ready to eat noodles because of our market positioning and good quality. In the food business, all strategies fail in front of taste and quality. Yummy noodles assure the best quality to consumers and in the long run, it will yield good results for us,” the official said.
He said along with the known reasons for growth of the fast convenient food segment, the major reason for popularity of noodles in hilly regions of the Northeast was the lack of fuel such as wood or coal in remote areas because of wet climate. “Our noodles are already cooked and can be eaten directly from the packet. Hence, it does not need any fuel to cook.”