The company originated in Switzerland in 1885, when Julius Maggi took over his father's mill. He quickly became a pioneer of industrial food production, aiming to improve the nutritional intake of worker families. Maggi was the first to bring protein-rich legume meals to the market, and followed up with a ready-made soup based on legume meals in 1886. In 1897, Julius Maggi founded the company Maggi GmbH in Singen, Germany.
In 1947, following several changes in ownership and corporate structure, Maggi's holding company merged with the Nestlé company to form Nestlé-Alimentana S.A., currently known in its francophone home base as Nestlé S.A.
The bouillon cube or Maggi cube is a meat substitute product that was introduced in 1908.
In West Africa and parts of the Middle East, Maggi cubes are an integral part of the local cuisine. In Haiti and throughout Latin America, Maggi products, especially bouillon cubes, are widely sold with some repackaging to reflect local terminology. In the German, Dutch, and Danish languages, lovage has come to be known as Maggi herb (Ger. Maggikraut, Du. maggikruid or maggiplant, Da. maggiurt), because it tastes similar to Maggi sauce, although lovage is not present in the sauce.
Maggi instant noodles are popular in India and Malaysia. Nestle has 39% market share in Malaysia, where "Maggi" is synonymous with instant noodles, and had 90% market share in India prior to a nationwide ban by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. Following the ban, the market share was reduced to 53% in India. In Malaysia, fried noodles made from Maggi noodles are called Maggi goreng.
In May 2015, Food Safety Regulators from Barabanki, a district of Uttar Pradesh, India reported that samples of Maggi 2 Minute Noodles had unexpectedly high levels of monosodium glutamate, as well as up to 17 times the permissible limit of lead. This finding led to multiple market withdrawals and investigations in India and beyond.
June 3, 2015 – The New Delhi Government banned the sale of Maggi in New Delhi stores for 15 days due to these findings.First Information Reports (FIRs) against Bollywood Maggi Brand Ambassadors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit, & Preity Zinta were lodged by Sudhir Kumar Ojha, a lawyer, at Muzaffarpur district court, asking the authorities to arrest them if required. He complained that he fell sick after eating Maggi which he had purchased from a shop at Lenin Chowk on 30 May.
June 4, 2015 – The Gujarat FDA banned the noodles for 30 days after 27 out of 39 samples were detected with objectionable levels of metallic lead, among other things, and Assam banned sale, distribution, and storage of Maggi's "extra delicious chicken noodles" variety for 30 days after tests carried out at the state public health laboratory concluded that the particular variety contained added monosodium glutamate and an excessively high amount of lead. On June 4, 2015 the government of Tamil Nadu banned Maggi foods due to an unacceptable amount of lead and other components.
June 6, 2015 – The Central Government of India banned nationwide sales of Maggi noodles for an indefinite period.
June 26, 2015 – During a press meeting, the Minister for Health and Family Welfare of Karnataka, U. T. Khader, stated that Maggi foods would not be banned.
July, 2015 – The Bombay High Court allowed the export of Maggi while the ban in India remained.
August 2015 – Tests performed by the US health regulator FDA showed no dangerous lead levels in the products. On 13 August 2015, the nationwide ban was struck down by the Bombay high court. The court stated that proper procedure was not followed in issuing the ban and called into question the test results, as the samples were not tested at authorized laboratories accredited to the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
Some of India's biggest retailers (including Future Group's Big Bazaar, Easyday, and Nilgiris) imposed a nationwide ban on Maggi. In addition, multiple state authorities in India found an unacceptable amount of lead, leading to bans in more than 5 other states.
Nepal indefinitely banned Maggi over concerns about the lead levels in the product. Maggi noodles were subsequently withdrawn from the market of five African nations: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG): Testing found some MSG in Maggi noodles. The packet stated "No added MSG"; however, MSG naturally occurs in hydrolyzed peanut protein, onion powder and wheat flour. Maggi offered to remove the words "No added MSG" from the package to overcome the objection.
Lead: Maggi noodles include flavouring packets named "Tastemaker" which is intended to dissolve in water during cooking. Maggi insisted that testing should be done on the product as it is eaten; however, the FSSAI insisted that the powder itself should be tested. On June 5, the FSSAI said that the prescribed standards of 2.5 parts per million would have to apply to all components of the product. Out of the 13 samples tested by Delhi authorities, 10 of them had lead content exceeding this limit. The packets that initiated the investigation from Uttar Pradesh had 17.2 ppm of lead. Nestlé also questioned the reliability of the labs used. Results from testing outside of India (Singapore, US) reported that Maggi noodles were safe. In the later Bombay High Court judgment, the court agreed that the test results by earlier labs were unreliable. The court mandated testing to be done at three specific laboratories (Punjab, Hyderabad and Jaipur) where Maggi was found safe. The lead may have been naturally occurring in plants and soil or from Indian spices, although within acceptable limits.
Maggi has always insisted that their noodle product is safe. Maggi recalled stock worth nearly Rs 320 crore from the shelves and paid 20 crores to a cement factory to burn the product. In addition, Corporate Affairs Ministry imposed a Rs 640 crore fine on Nestle India for the presence of MSG and lead beyond the permissible limit.
In India, Maggi products were returned to the shelves in November 2015, accompanied by a Nestlé advertising campaign to win back the trust of members of the Indian community. At this time, the Maggi anthem by Vir Das and Alien Chutney took the nation by storm. Nestlé resumed production of Maggi at all five India-based plants on 30 November 2015.
In October 2015, the India Today Television team conducted a sting operation in which they approached FSSAI officials, pretending to have a food product with high lead levels. The team reported that one of the officials agreed to pass the samples without conducting any tests. Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan reacted to the operation, promising to take serious action, although FSSAI is not administered by his ministry.
Nestlé has faced criticism for its advertising not adhering to marketing regulations in developed countries, and for making misleading claims in developing countries. In October 2008 Nestlé mistakenly aired a commercial meant for Bangladeshi television on British TV. The advert made false claims that the noodles would "help to build strong muscles, bone, and hair". The British Advertising Standards Authority stated that the advertisement did not abide by the new EU consumer protection legislation, by which advertisers have to provide proof of health claims.
1 Currently manufactured by General Mills in the United States and Canada. Produced by Cereal Partners under the Nestlé brand elsewhere. 2 Brand owned by General Mills; US and Canadian production rights controlled by Nestlé under license. 3 US production rights owned by The Hershey Company. 4 Canadian production rights owned by The Hershey Company. 5 US rights and production owned by Smarties Candy Company, with a different product. 6 US rights and specific trade dress owned by Nestlé; rights elsewhere owned by Associated British Foods. 7 Produced by Cereal Partners, branded as Nestlé. 8 Produced by Cereal Partners, and Branded Nestlé in The United Kingdom, and Ireland. Produced by Post Foods, elsewhere. 9 Philippine production rights owned by Alaska Milk Corporation. 10 Used only in Indonesia, Thailand, and Cambodia. 11 Used only in the Philippines. 12 Used only in Brazil.