Does it have a bit of magic about it? Is it just the ‘Masala’ of this version of instant noodles that charms our tongue and we go on an unending spree of ingesting Maggie? What else would explain a 4,00,000 tonnes consumption of Maggie in one single year i.e. 2014! Could it be the simplicity of the process of just cracking the noodles bricks before slowly putting them into boiling water and calmly waiting for just over “2 minutes” to see magical aroma enter our nostrils? Since without any second thought obviously the next step is to dip the fork into the bowl of Maggie before anyone else can lay their hands on it!
What explains this phenomenon that has made its place into the Indian food culture that was earlier obsessed with fresh milk and wheat procured from the local farm? Maggie has so seamlessly transited from Switzerland to India. It now looks more at home and more than just a brand, it’s a culture. It has captured the imagination of young and the old, from finding its place in the tiffin of an elementary school going child to pacifying hungry adults living in hostels at two past midnight, from busy working professionals in Multinational Corporations trying to sniff in Maggie over a chat in the short 10-minute break to the helpless senior citizens crying for a meal at home alone, from the rich millennial gulping her daily dose of Maggie lazily sliding down the couch to the hungry beggars on the street eyeing for a few free spoons of it, why has Maggie become the one stop destination for all the hungry stomachs? From the 5-star restaurant innovations like “Magburger”, “Maggiza”, “Magbhel” to the cheap yet lipsmacking street experiments of Tandoori Maggie and Chilly Paneer Maggie, the range and diversity of servers and eaters is too broad, so perhaps we will never know!
However, some facts are hard to conceal and even harder to deny! Much to the shock and dismay of its loyal consumer base, in 2015 Nestle’s Maggie was ordered to be tested and it was found to allegedly contain a high lead content. Subsequently, the Food Standard and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) imposed a nationwide ban on Maggie and the then Health Minister J.P. Nadda and current President of the ruling political party publicly avowed, “There will be no compromise of safety standards.” The senior executives at Nestle had never expected such a strong reaction from the Indian authorities which almost came as a shove down its throat. They claimed innocence over its beloved product which has lasted in the Indian markets for more than three decades. Maggie was removed from the shelves at home, the malls and supermarkets. While Maggie’s list of ingredients did not find any mention, the test findings exposed the ingredient of Maggie’s “Magic Masala” as containing a chemical flavour enhancer Monosodium Glutamate or MSG.
The future of Maggie in Indian hearts and minds suddenly looked bleak. Time elapsed. Testing authorities changed. Legal battles were settled. Maggie made its comeback. More time elapsed. The issue of unhealthy Maggie culture is not on the backburner anymore. It seems to have completely extinguished. Quite possibly, the unlimited health hazards that come with the semi-cooked Maida or unrefined flour being boiled for a few minutes before entering our mouth is a potential risk liability that will never be ‘realized’. Nutritionists would argue that the Aatta Maggie is no magical cure! In the COVID-19 era, in the fateful 2020, coronavirus pandemic put a halt to everything. We have arrived at a new ‘normal’. Alas, India continues to live on Maggie as its staple diet!