Luxury Instant Noodles, is Nothing Sacred Anymore?

Luxury Instant Noodles, is Nothing Sacred Anymore?

China’s instant noodles sales for 2019 are on track to return to their high levels of 5 years ago, and it’s all down to luxury.

A staggering 103.6 billion packets of instant noodles were sold worldwide in 2018, according to a report released by US consulting firm, Ries & Partners. In this noodle mountain, China ranks first, accounting for 38.85 percent of global instant noodle sales. China’s instant noodle market, which sold 44.4 billion packs in 2014, began a gradual decline in 2015, with 38.52 billion packs sold in 2016, the lowest in five years, according to the World Instant Noodle Association.

“We won’t buy any instant noodles because they’re unhealthy”, Zong Qingyang from Suzhou University and Xu Jiaqian from Nanjing Normal University told The Nanjinger, summing up the feelings of many. As a result, China’s instant noodle market began a gradual decline in 2015, leading to a paltry 38.52 sales in 2016, the lowest in 5 years, according to the World Instant Noodle Association.

Now, however, since 2018, China’s instant noodles market sales have rebounded significantly, and are this year expected to return to 2014 levels. From figures released by top instant noodles enterprises, it is now  the high-price brand products that are driving growth in the total income.

Designer bags, imported sports cars, golf club memberships; China’s thirst for luxury has finally reached instant noodles. Jia Huang, a student in San Jiang College, told the Nanjinger, “If the instant noodle is special enough, I’ll follow the trend, even if it is expensive”.

Jia is far from alone. The 2018 annual report for the Master Kang (康师傅) brand of instant noodles showed that the company’s revenue reached ¥60.686 billion in 2018, up 2.94 percent year-on-year. High-end noodles accounted for 40 percent of revenue, reflecting a trend toward product upgrades that has become a common choice for both big-name manufacturers and start ups.

Such numbers also mean the demographers have been hard at work. Buyers of high-end instant noodles largely share one or more characteristic.

  • Buried with work
  • No time to buy food and cook
  • Seek quality of life
  • Do not want to muddle along
  • Of the view that traditional instant noodles can fill a hunger but cannot be served as dinner
  • Time does not permit delivery that takes at least 20 minutes

Therefore, many companies today are focusing on producing all kinds of ramen noodles, containing various types of meat toppings. The selling point thereof, “The real thing matches the picture”, justifies a price of ¥25-30 a pack.

According to Yang Xing, a department manager in Tuniu for 9 years, “They are delicious and fast, why not buy them?”. For people like Yang, instant noodles precisely meets their needs for a fast-paced lifestyle.

Yet, today’s luxury noodle is tomorrow’s junk food. With competition fierce and the next fad likely just around the corner, the business mantra today is “Make noodles while the sun shines”.