Can instant noodles be healthy? Thailand’s MAMA keeps up with consumer needs through better-for-you options

By Hui Ling Dang

- Last updated on GMT

The MAMA Less Sodium range has a sodium content that is approximately 800mg lesser than the original recipe. ©MAMA
The MAMA Less Sodium range has a sodium content that is approximately 800mg lesser than the original recipe. ©MAMA

Related tags Thailand Instant noodles better for you Healthier choice

Thai instant noodle giant MAMA has seen its “healthier range” gain popularity in overseas markets such as Greece, but admits that more time is needed for such products to gain a foothold in its local market.

A brand under Thai President Foods Public Company Limited, MAMA is arguably the best-known instant noodle brand from the Land of Smiles. 

Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia​ at THAIFEX – Anuga Asia 2023, Chano Tingpalpong, Assistant Exports Manager at Thai President Foods, said that the brand recognises a growing interest for better-for-you options and is making efforts to meet the demands of health-conscious consumers.

More and more people worldwide are looking for healthier choices, especially after the pandemic. They want products that not only taste good, but also contain more nutritious ingredients. Healthy foods are not that niche a category anymore. The younger generation of consumers want more information [about products] and a greater variety of options,” ​he added.

Named Mendake, the new range of noodles under MAMA are made from wheat flour and consist of three flavours, namely Shiitake, Whole Wheat, and Kale.

Unlike most instant noodles, Mendake noodles are air-dried, and do not contain oil nor seasoning.

The new range is a spinoff from the original Mendake instant yellow noodles that are sold in Thailand. We only completed the development this year. This series comes in a different packaging and is currently only available for overseas markets.  

“Because we know that people try to eat healthier nowadays, the noodles are low-fat, low-sodium, a source of protein, and suitable for vegans. Each packet contains only the noodles, so consumers can create their own recipes, such as adding them to soups or stir-frying them,” ​Tingpalpong added.

In addition, the Mendake noodles are said to be particularly popular in Greece, while they have also been exported to The Netherlands, Germany, and South Africa.

“As the noodles are chewier and have strong flavours, we sell a lot to the HORECA (hotels, restaurants and catering) sector in these markets.”

Yet, despite the shift towards healthier food choices across the globe, it might still take some time before the mass market in Thailand fully embraces these offerings.

“In Thailand, the group of consumers who want these products are more selective. Therefore, when we launch [the Mendake range] in the local market in future, they will most likely be retailed at specialty stores for a start."

Changing perceptions

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the brand discovered that many of its consumers were looking for “happier and healthier” food products.

In terms of “happier” products, MAMA introduced meal kits for people stuck at home to cook and enjoy with their whole family.

Apart from the new Mendake series, the brand rolled out another healthy version of their instant noodles in 2022.

Called the MAMA Less Sodium range, each pack of noodles has a sodium content of 1,000mg, compared to the original recipe which contains 1,800mg.

“Most people think that instant noodles have high sodium levels. So, we wanted to change the perception and developed these products. The flavour is the same, it tastes just as good, but it is healthier with less sodium.

“The MAMA Less Sodium range is only sold in Thailand at the moment. However, we are working on recipes catered for our export markets. We expect to complete the development by the end of this year,” ​said Tingpalpong.

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