Dateline Southeast Asia

World’s fourth-biggest noodle market buckling under competition

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

World’s fourth-biggest noodle market buckling under competition

Related tags: Stevia

Vietnam’s generations-long love affair with a paper-wrapped instant noodle brand appears to be in terminal decline after it reported plunging sales for last year.

Miliket, which lorded over 90% of the segment as recently as in the Nineties, has been squeezed out of the market as other foreign and domestic brands have brought out more modern offerings. It now accounts for just 2-4% of Vietnamese sales, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Some analysts believe that what was once its strongest selling point—its old-fashioned paper packaging adorned with an illustration of two prawns—is now its weakest, and is too conservative in a highly competitive market.

Also in question is the brand’s distribution model, which targets local stores over supermarkets, though the latter channel has been growing quickly in fast-developing Vietnam. Miliket also targets consumers in rural areas, at a time when many people are moving into cities.

These changing social practices have become apparent on Miliket-Colusa Foodstuff’s balance sheet, which recently reported an annual drop of 39% in pre-tax profit to just VND25bn (US$1.1m) on revenues of VND461bn (US$20.3m). 

This, in turn, is down by nearly a third on 2013 figures, and a lack of profits has been affecting the company’s ability to invest in marketing and promotion.

Currently, Miliket’s instant noodles are in the lowest price bracket on the market, retailing at VN3,000 (US$0.13) per pack.

Today’s tight market—a far cry from the one Miliket had ruled since its launch in the Seventies—is also proving tough for the leading brands, including Acecook, Masan and Asia Food. 

Though Japanese-owned Acecook Vietnam now occupies half of the instant noodle market, it has reported steadily diminishing revenues in the last several years.

Moreover, Masan, which combined with Asia Food sits on a third of Vietnam’s instant noodle market, saw its profits hammered by 20% in the first half of 2016 in the world’s fourth-biggest instant noodle market. 

It hasn’t helped that as Vietnamese get wealthier they have becoming increasingly more willing to pay for premium products at the expense of instant noodles.

Data from the World Instant Noodles Association suggest that Vietnam’s noodle market has been in decline since 2013, from 5.2bn servings to 4.8bn in 2015.

More stories from Southeast Asia…

Malaysian government targets fake stevia sale

Malaysians selling fake stevia products have been warned that they could face conviction after a probe was ordered into the practice.

Stevia

Health minister S. Subramaniam said he had instructed his food-safety division to investigate the issue after reports emerged of 10 allegedly fake stevia products being found on the market.

Under the Food Act, if there is contamination, sale of imitation food products or wrong information related to any type of food, offenders face action​,” Subramaniam said.

The minister was responding to reports in a Malay-language newspaper that laboratory tests on 10 samples by two universities had shown that none contained plant extracts. Rather, a combination of dangerous chemicals were allegedly found instead.

A natural sweetener extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni​ plant, stevia contains steviol glycosides which act as a powerful sugar substitute with a negligible effect on blood glucose, making it popular among diabetics.

Citing Section 13 of the Food Act 1983, Noor Hisham Abdullah, deputy director of the health ministry, said that anyone found guilty of selling fake stevia faced a 10-year prison sentence and/or a fine of RM100,000 (US$22,650).

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