Featured case: Nestlé Entangled!
Braving the Maggi Noodle Crisis in India

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The case

Paul BulckeWho – the protagonist

Paul Bulcke, Nestlé CEO.


maggieMaggi noodles is a much-loved product in India. It’s viewed as a healthy alternative to a conventional meal, taking two minutes to cook. As of October 2015, Maggi boasted a 63% market share of the Indian instant noodle sector.


Disaster struck in May 2015, when high levels of lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) were discovered during a test on 29 samples, of which 15 were positive, which was conducted by the Indian Food and Drug Administration.

With news soon spreading through the media and hostile consumers burning Maggi packets in protest of ‘unhealthy’ food products, Nestlé India had to recall the product. Losses totalled $48.46millon and 400 million packets were destroyed.


Receiving the report on 21 May 2015, CEO Paul Bulcke held a press conference on 5 June 2015, stating that tests conducted by Nestlé and third parties on batches of almost 1,000 and 600 packets respectively had reported Maggi as “safe for consumption” and “below permissible limits of lead and MSG”.

The ban was overturned in the Bombay High Court in August 2015, but it took until November 2015 for Maggi to be relaunched.


The majority of Indian states banned the product, spanning from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Tamil Nadu in the deep south.

Key quotee-marketing

“They seem to have lost the plot by posting PDF files on Twitter. Most Twitter users access it through a phone. Who is going to see a PDF file on their phones?” – Mehmood Pracha, Food Safety and Standard Association of India lawyer, on Nestlé’s social media response to the crisis.

What next?

Despite getting the product back onto the shelves, Paul wondered if they would ever be able to capture consumer faith and trust again? What strategies should Nestlé India adopt to have a chance of achieving this?

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Nestlé Entangled! Braving the Maggi Noodle Crisis in India
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The authors


Asha Kaul and Vidhi Chaudhri

Asha and Vidhi discuss why they chose the case, leadership lessons and the amount of discussion the case generates.

Managing a crisis

Asha said: “What motivated us to write the case was the timeliness of the issue.

“Maggi is a much-loved brand, and with the events leading up to the recall of Maggi and the ambiguity surrounding this, it was interesting to examine the crisis response strategy of Nestlé.

“The case also offered rich insights into the multifaceted implications on Nestlé India’s leadership, reputation, and brand promise.”

Making the case for leadership

Vidhi added: “Cases such as this provide a good training ground for difficult conversations and decisions.

“However, each case is different and context is important.

“What is important about this case, from a leadership standpoint, is the need for organisational leadership to manage complexity and ambiguity. Not all events surrounding the recall were crystal clear; however, we know that perception has real consequences, and organisations have to take action because the plausibility of a questionable act may be enough to create doubts in stakeholder minds.”

Plenty of discussion

Asha continued: “The discussion in the classroom is good and there is a lot of focus on the perspective of leadership communication in situations of crisis and change, and cultural differences.

“The case also prompts discussion on stakeholder perspective (Gen X and Y) on a brand which is loved by all age brackets.”

Lessons to be learned

Vidhi concluded: “Increasingly, we see and hear of similar cases, especially from large corporations. Again, while each case is different, the cumulative effect is a growing distrust of business (at least globally) and scepticism in corporate leadership.

“If we look at some of the biggest global crises of 2016 and 2017 (e.g. Volkswagen emissions scandal) we can see that many stem from systemic problems in management, culture, and leadership. Rebuilding trust and reputation through open communication is the vital lesson in all such cases.”

About the authors

Asha Kaul is a Professor at the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
e ashakaul@iima.ac.in

Vidhi Chaudhri is Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam.


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