news Tuesday, July 07, 2015 - 05:30
Close to a month ago, Nestle’s flagship product for the Indian markets, Maggi, was withdrawn by the food and beverages giant after a ban on the product following discovery of high levels of lead and MSG in packets in several states. But it seems now that Nestle will not back down. While it left the country kicking and screaming, unleashing a torrent of tweets and posts on Facebook, this time, their PR could be more subtle.     Then. And maybe now.   An advertisement by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) found its way into the newspapers this morning. The body is a trade organisation which acts as a buffer between the government, industry and other relevant stakeholders. Titled “The Truth About MSG”, the ad mentions that glutamate is a naturally occurring substance in several foods. It goes on to explain what MSG is and that it is permitted under Indian law. “Presence of glutamate in food products is usually interpreted as MSG,” it explains, saying that the presence of glutamate is misinterpreted as MSG. The ad further says that “Regulations do not prohibit or prescribe any limit for MSG.” It adds that since the FSSAI had said that the “No Added MSG” labels on FMCG products were misleading, “consumers are being notified accordingly”. A PTI report which was carried by several news agencies mentions that after a month of the instant noodle ban, sales had gone down by 90%, from worth Rs 350 crore a month to Rs 30 crore in the past month. It quotes a senior official from ASSOCHAM , who mentions that after the Maggi fiasco, “there is a lot of harassment going at lower level. The industry is very scared of being subjected to more harassment”. He/She adds that on the MSG issue, the government should clarify that it was misbranding and not a safety concern, adding that there was no standard protocol measures for testing in most states. The arguments in the news reports mirrored not only those being presented on the advertisement but also Nestle’s statements as they were bidding goodbye to us. “We do not add MSG in Maggi noodles, we will remove ‘No MSG’ from product label,” Nestle’s global CEO Paul Bulcke told the media at a press conference on June 5. It could be that the Nestle PR behemoth is finally dragging the brand back from near-oblivion. When Bulcke had addressed the media at a press conference during the height of the Maggi controversy in India, sitting by his side was one Shivani Hegde. A report in The Economic Times mentions that four months after she was posted there, Nestle recalled their Sri Lanka head back to India, to stem the bad PR tide coming their way, as several newspapers touched upon. Hegde’s dalliance with Nestle has been at a time when the brand found its niche as one of the most trusted in the country. Another ET report mentions her associations with several campaigns which earned the brand its stripes, the “Me aur Meri Maggi” campaign with Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan being a classic example. And all that may just be inference and speculation, but there may be more meat to this argument. As far back as last month, Nestle hired the services of PR and lobbying giant APCO Worldwide from America, the agency whose services were used by PM Modi for Vibrant Gujarat since 2006. And we know how all that turned out.  So with ads appearing in newspapers and articles bemoaning its absence, is Maggi attempting a re-run soon?

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