There’s some skullduggery going on in China’s instant noodle market.
The Beijing News reports that two of China’s best-selling brands, Uni-President and Hong Kong-listed Master Kong have both recently reduced the size of their packets from 95g to 90g, without dropping their price.
The two companies are being fairly brazen – it’s a reverse of last year’s decision to increase the packet size, and increase prices by 10% at the same time. Now instant noodle fans are complaining, not unfairly, that the whole operation was a stealth price hike.
You have to have some sympathy for the brands. Since 2007, when the National Development and Reform Commission decided that they were running a noodle cartel to artificially boost prices, the brands have had to hold prices steady or face scorn both from the public and government officials.
Given the rising wheat prices this year, I’m sure that both Uni-President and Master Kong were desperate to protect their margin, but unsure about how to go about it. In the end, they pinned their hopes that no one would miss that extra 5g. But if they thought beady-eyed Chinese consumers would let them get away with it, they obviously don’t know their market well enough.