The market for noodles – a very popular snack item – has expanded rapidly in Bangladesh in the last few years due to rapid growth and urbanisation. Also with restaurants closed under Covid-19 restrictions, entrepreneurs both here and abroad are keen to explore the market potential for noodles.
The noodle market in Bangladesh is worth around Tk1,000 crore, and it has shown an annual growth rate of about 10% in the last few years. But the growth jumped to around 16% during the pandemic with many people staying home, for the most part, industry insiders told The Business Standard.
Along with the growth in the local market, exports grew too – increasing 25% in FY2020-21, year-on-year.
Urbanisation and people's work and lifestyle have brought the boom naturally to the noodles market. Seeing the steady growth in demand, a number of large conglomerates, both local and foreign, have invested in this market, say insiders.
Aside from giants like Nestlé, Cocola, Pran-RFL, Bashundhara, Square, and Ifad, a number of smaller companies have also entered the Bangladeshi noodles market.
On the matter, Pran-RFL's Director of Marketing, Kamruzzaman Kamal, said, "When people stay home, they tend to snack more. Noodles are a very popular snack item, and it can be prepared quickly.
"This is why the noodles market is booming at this time."
Pran's Mr Noodles is one of the most popular noodle brands in Bangladesh.
There are two types of noodles available in the local market – instant and stick noodles. The demand for instant noodles is higher in the country, as they can be prepared relatively quickly. 60% of all noodles sold in the market are instant noodles.
Some brands of instant noodles come pre-packaged with vegetables, meat, spices and eggs, and people just need to add hot water and its ready to eat. Stick noodles are more cumbersome. They have to be boiled and mixed with vegetables, meat, or eggs, which also have to be cooked before serving.
Nestlé Bangladesh's Maggi is the market leader in the instant noodles category, with a 30% market share.
Nestlé Bangladesh's Corporate Affairs Director Naquib Khan says, "The instant noodle market is growing and Maggi is driving the growth. Its purpose is to be an ally of consumers in their kitchens, to help them cook tasty and healthy food they love.
"In the last couple of years, Maggi has launched Maggi Masala Blast, Maggi Fusian Bangkok Sweet Chilli noodles. Masala Blast delivers a very exciting spicy taste to teens and youths, especially those who have grown up with Masala Maggi."
He continued, "Maggi always comes up with exciting new tastes for Bangladeshi consumers. Bangkok Sweet Chilli is a new type of noodle which is very popular in Bangkok. Maggi brought this noodle for food enthusiastic youths of Bangladesh under a new brand called Maggi Fusian."
Aside from Nestlé Bangladesh and Pran-RFL, Cocola also holds a good share of the noodle market in Bangladesh. Bashundhara Group brought their brand of noodles to market recently, and Kolson is also marketing their brand in a bid to boost their market share.
Collectively, data from noodle companies indicate they sold more than Tk1,000 crore worth of noodles in Bangladesh in 2019, say insiders.
People had to cut back on going to restaurants during the Covid-19 crisis, which in turn gave popularity to home-cooked food items that can be prepared quickly. Industry insiders say the noodles market will go up by another Tk200 crore by the end of this year.
The Chopstick brand of instant noodles – owned by Square Food & Beverage Ltd – does not have any MSG or tasting salts.
"We were anxious that schools and colleges closing in the pandemic would adversely impact the noodles market, but instead, our sales have increased," said Parvej Saiful Islam, CFO of the company.