Have ‘convenience noodles’ taken an inconvenient fall?
There is no need to cry over the falling sales of instant noodles, for decades of robust economic growth have made Chinese consumers wise enough to shift to healthy diets and lifestyles.
A recent Bain & Company and Kantar Worldpanel report shows annual sales of instant noodles in China dropped by 12.5 percent in 2015. Yet it is premature to conclude that this is clear evidence of upgraded consumption in China, because the downward pressure on economic growth and skyrocketing housing prices in big cities are eating into Chinese people’s incomes.
A close look at the underlying causes of the decline in the consumption of an iconic fast food item may help policymakers come to grips with imminent economic challenges that they cannot afford to ignore. In a country where people have long seen food as manna, the surging popularity of instant noodles since the early 1980s has made it one of the most telling footnotes to China’s remarkable reform and opening-up history.
As hundreds of millions of Chinese farmers left their homes in search of better prospects in cities and people across the social divide seized every opportunity to get rich, the time-saving instant noodles, also called “convenience noodles”, more or less became the choice of almost every one. At the height of their sales, Chinese consumed 48.38 billion packets of instant noodles in 2011. In other words, on average every one of the 1.3 billion people in China consumed three packets of instant noodles a month that year.