Nissin Foods Co. is accelerating the roll out of new products and plans to sell packaged freshly cut vegetables, as Asian consumers are eating more meals at home in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Hong Kong-listed unit of the Japanese firm, whose founder invented instant noodles after seeing a queue of hungry people outside a food stall in the aftermath of World War II, has launched crab curry-flavored noodles and XO sauce flavor potato sticks in the face of rising demand. Social distancing measures have created new habits that will outlast the outbreak, according to Kiyotaka Ando, company’s chief executive officer.
“Consumer demand increased dramatically after the coronavirus outbreak because people need to stay at home,” Ando said in an interview Tuesday. “Lifestyles will change as people will eat more processed food at home and less outside.”
Sales grew by double digits in the first five months this year, and the growing trend will continue for the rest of this year, Ando said, although he expects the competition to heat up.
The pandemic, which has sickened 6.27 million and killed over 375,600 globally, has recast the way people shop, buy and consume, forcing companies to adapt. Yum China Holdings Inc. has begun delivering raw steaks with a detailed recipe for home cooking, while hot pot restaurant operator Haidilao International Holding Ltd. is supplying customers with kung pao shrimp, stewed chicken, vegetables and sauces that can be home-cooked in about five minutes.
Nissin has rolled out 12 instant noodle products in the first five months of this year, compared with eight over the same period in 2019, Ando said. These include premium noodles that are high on nutrition and low on calories. More offerings such as the pre-cut fresh vegetables will be launched in Hong Kong later this year.
China’s $14 billion (¥1.5 trillion) instant noodle business has been struggling in the past five years, with sales posting a slight drop or low single-digit growth, according to data compiled by Euromonitor International, as consumers pivoted to healthier options. The pandemic has turned around the prospects of the entire sector.
Its parent Nissin Foods Holdings Co. started selling Chicken Ramen, the world’s first instant noodle product, in 1958 and later expanded to 80 countries and regions with several international brands, such as Cup Noodles. Despite becoming one of the world’s biggest instant noodle-makers, Nissin has seen slowing business in recent years.
The pandemic has provided an opportunity for Nissin to test their new products. With consumers cooking at home more frequently, Ando said they are also more willing to try new flavors to avoid “getting bored.”