Unilever’s Pot Noodle brand has faced stiff competition in recent years with rivals launching new products in a bid to steal some of the iconic brand’s market share.
However, Pot Noodle, which is now 26 years old, remains the dominant noodles brand, accounting for more than 32% of the total noodles category, which is valued at £120m [TNS 52 w/e May 22, 2005].
Although these figures may seem impressive, it is not all good news for the brand leader, as sales of the snack have dropped nearly 13% in the latest year, taking its value to less than £39m.
This, despite Unilever digging deep into its pockets to support the brand.
In the past year alone, the food giant invested £10m in marketing and advertising, including controversial adverts such as The Horn, aimed at reversing flagging sales.
The pot noodle market has in general suffered from the nation’s hunger for better-for-
you food options as it is largely perceived as unhealthy.
Still, health is not an issue to all of us, according to Unilever business manager Simon Barnett, who says loyal Pot Noodle eaters claim that health is not an issue as taste and convenience outweigh any negative health perceptions there may be about the products.
However, he admits that Unilever does recognise that health is a big issue.
“We are conscious that mums, bombarded by a myriad of confusing healthy eating messages, do make up a large proportion of our buyers,” says Barnett. “Therefore, in common with many other food manufacturers, we are looking at areas where we can improve the nutrition of our products without compromising on taste.”
The category has also suffered adversely from the negative press surrounding the Sudan 1 recall that affected more than 400 lines earlier this year. “Pot Noodle took an unfair share of this publicity,” claims Barnett.
Ko-Lee Go Cups is the latest entrant in the pot noodle segment and, according to manufacturer Kohlico Trading, what sets the newcomer apart from other brands is the 65g pot size. “We have had bow-and-cup noodles in various sizes before. However, with Ko-Lee Go Cups we have managed to merge the convenience of the cups with the quantity of the tubs,” says MD Kaval Kohli.
The new range is available in four Asian flavours including curry, hot & spicy, hot & sour chicken and sweet & sour chicken, and comes packaged with a fork.
Meanwhile, Blue Dragon is attempting to make the pot noodle sector more upmarket with the launch of Noodle Wok. The instant noodle is packaged in a distinctive blue wok bowl with a lid and also comes with an integral fork.
Available in two flavours, Noodle Wok can be prepared by adding boiling water or microwaving it in two minutes.
Marketing director Claudia Bailey says: “Noodle Wok brings together Blue Dragon’s strong authentic heritage, innovative packaging and exotic flavours.”