SOARING sales of instant noodles have for years been a reliable indicator of the insatiable appetites of China’s rising consumer class. China is the world’s biggest market for these flash-fried snacks infused with monosodium glutamate (MSG), a chemical that makes flavourless food more palatable. Locals slurp down over 40 billion packets each year. Now comes news of a nasty noodle meltdown. It is less a sign that China’s long consumer boom is waning than that Chinese tastes are changing.
The volume of instant noodles gobbled last year fell by 12.5%, according to a new report on China’s consumer market from Bain, a consultancy, and Kantar Worldpanel, a market-research firm. The consequences for firms such as Tingyi, whose Master Kong noodles are found everywhere from railway canteens to kitchen cupboards, have been severe. Profits for China’s biggest instant-noodle firm fell by 36% in 2015, to $256m, as hungry Chinese consumers turned their backs on its wares. Even more shocking, the volume of beer sold in China—the world’s biggest guzzler—fell by 3.6% last year, largely because of plunging…Continue reading