Opinion / Raymond Zhou

Pasta imperfect as noodle sales drop

By Raymond Zhou (China Daily) Updated: 2016-07-18 09:27

The downgrade in market positioning was much less perceptible than that in sales. When high-speed trains first came into service, I noticed far fewer passengers lining up at the water heater at lunch time.

Some would order the overpriced lunch box and others would take out other processed food. In recent years those ordering the box, priced up to 60 yuan ($9), have risen considerably.

Part of the reason is, many new stations have banned the sale of instant noodles, which, at 5 yuan apiece, could pose a threat to higher-value sales.

Availability alone obviously cannot account for the change in taste.

Suffice to say, instant noodles have stopped being the default food for those not picky about what fills their stomachs. Urban youths such as students used to rely on a steady supply when their families were not around. But the scene of half-empty Uni-President or Master Kong cups scattered around dirty dorm rooms was so noughties.

Nowadays they order internet-facilitated takeout food, which still comes in round paper cups, but unlabeled, and with far more variety.

Another sign that instant noodles have gone down-market is the string of rumors that plague it. Every couple of years there is an unverified-and unverifiable-piece of news that accuses it of containing one poison or another.

I don't think it was started by a competitor, but more likely by someone who could not tell the difference between poisonous and unhealthy.

Eating too much fried noodles would not be that different from having too much fried chips, and the seasoning is too strong for the average palate.

I usually discard half of it. It has a manufactured deliciousness quite irresistible to an empty stomach, but repulsive to those with more sophisticated taste.

At the height of sales, in 2011, China sold 48.38 billion packets of instant noodles, which came out to 37 packets per person.

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