Maggi for me brings up warm memories of cooking on a hotplate in a hostel room, eating with friends at roadside hangouts, and more recently a hot breakfast to share with the family at our weekend cottage. The thought that we may have unknowingly been consuming large quantities of lead during these fond memories isn’t quite pleasant. What surprises me is their lack of response to these allegations. Denial is all very well, but it won’t make the problem go away.
Here’s what I would do:
1. Accept the allegations
Indians have crossed the point where they would blindly assume an MNC or foreign lab’s results as superior to labs approved by the government of India. It isn’t just one lab so either it is a national conspiracy against the product or there is some issue with what is being measured.
Since you can’t beat them, join them. Ask for Maggi India personnel to get involved with the testing. Ask for third party witnesses. Split the same samples across multiple labs. Get TV crews involved. Make it a very engaging and transparent process.
The Indian Army has its own food labs. Has Maggi been tested there? If that comes clear it would be a huge shot in the arm.
2. Show that you believe in your product
If Nestle believes that the product is safe and the allegations baseless, it would be wise to show their staff eating Maggi in the staff canteens. The CEO and CMO should be on TV eating Maggi and explaining why the problem will not recur.
3. Invest in the Consumer
Nestle is not a stranger to voluntary recalls. Since the writing on the wall is clear, do a temporary stop-sale (not recall) of the product till it is clear that the product is safe. Yes, it is a big loss today. But in the current scenario Maggi is losing 30 years of goodwill and future sales. At least in states where the ban has not been invoked, replace stocks with a fresh batch.
4. Root cause analysis
What would cause these results? Could it be variations in water? Contamination of the raw materials? Is it just one flavour or all? Can you provide samples from other countries for testing?
4. Educate the Consumer
You and I know that Maggi isn’t a meal replacement. But advertising does position it as a healthy after-school meal. What we need to tell consumers is the correct proportion of Maggi in their diet i.e. once a week or twice a week. And that too with veggies added. I’m not so concerned about the lead and MSG because it forms a very small part of our diet. But if I ate it every day it would be a different story.
5. Global Messaging
Nestle is treating this as a local problem. But Indians are everywhere! Really big on social media! It would be a rude shock to consumers elsewhere if they discovered that Maggi was being withdrawn in India but continued in their countries. You should say that as a precaution you were voluntarily testing samples in all countries.
So if you were CMO of Maggi India, what would you do? Share your views in the comments section, or write an article and mail it to me at [email protected]