The recent controversial statement by a BJP MLA, Usha Thakur, blaming "lazy mothers" for the rise in sale of instant food items, especially Maggi noodles is not only insensitive, but also factually incorrect. She pitted "today's mothers" against those of earlier times, who used to cook healthy and pure food items.
Advertising campaigns, attach a feeling, or lifestyle to commercial products, egging people to buy them emotionally, rather than rationally. The first ever advert in India of Maggi noodles in 1980 emphasised on its '2-minute to cook' attribute, but the idea did not fly with mothers who would much rather painstakingly cook elaborate snacks for their kids. The failed campaign was revised, and the new ad with the famous dialogue, "Mummy, bhook lagi - bas do minute" became successful largely because mothers don't want their kids to stay hungry as they prepare time-consuming snacks for them.
Nestle, after gaining popularity as an instant snack with "Fast to Cook, Good to Eat" tagline, positioned its noodles as a healthy snack with the tagline, "Taste bhi, Health bhi." Sanjay Singh, the Food Safety Officer in Uttar Pradesh under whom some food product samples were sent to a government laboratory in Gorakhpur, said that he was "surprised" at the results, and thought it was a "typing error." Singh added, in an interview to India Samvad, "My perception about Nestle was that the company produced a high quality of edibles and conformed to all norms of food safety."
Parents who buy Maggi noodles for their kids, and young adults who have the snack as a staple food in hostels or otherwise never doubted the healthiness of Nestle products, thanks to the company spending about Rs. 300-450 crore annually on advertising that assured the 'healthy' aspect in the food. The emotional branding of Maggi noodles is the reason why the controversy generated a feeling of betrayal with social media posts like, "Maggi would be missed," rather than anger at being manipulated and fed harmful ingredients.
With Maggi boasting 70% market share of instant noodles, giving "laziness" as a reason for consumption of instant food items is speaking from a position of unawareness. Blaming laziness for Maggi sales is like absolving the numerous highly successful marketing campaigns over the last 30 years that laid claim to Maggi being 'healthy'.
And let me not even get started with how sexist Ms Thakur's comment is from a feminist's point-of-view. Do fathers not cook Maggi for their children?
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