The battle lines were drawn at the 8th World Instant Noodle Summit, held in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin at the weekend.
The prize being fought for was the lion’s share of the biggest instant noodle market there is — China — and like all great battles there was more than a fair share of subterfuge thrown in for good measure.
On one side was the might of the Master Kong brand, long the most favoured by the Chinese consumer and one that industry watchers claim accounts for more than half the world’s largest market.
On the other side was the upstart Uni-President and their fancy new product, which has captured the hearts of a modern generation of noodle fanciers.
Master Kong’s best-selling packet is the Braised Beef Noodles — the king of instant noodles and chosen by 54 per cent of the market — but over the past 12 months, Uni-President’s Pickle Vegetable and Beef Noodle has seen its market share rise to 13.5 per cent from 9.5 per cent.
The hot topic at the Summit was reports in the mainland Chinese media that the company behind Master Kong —Tingyi Holding — has been so worried by the threat to its crown that it has been offering payouts to shops in China’s northeast that take Uni-President’s wares off their shelves.
Not so, say the people from Tingyi, and the China Daily newspaper reported the company had in fact decided that attack was the best form of defence of their market share.
If the company looks set to lose ground in one market, it will gain in others — the thinking goes — with Tingyi announcing plans to expand into potato crisps and into carbonated drinks, in partnership with giant PepsiCo.
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