Nigerians have always been known for the variety of food that grace their tables. From the coast in the South to the dunes in the North, the multiplicity of their dishes is simply amazing. But so also is the sheer volume consumed.
Let's look at rice, for instance, In the past decade, consumption has increased 4.7 per cent, almost four times the global consumption growth, and in 2018 reached 6,900,000 metric tonnes – an increase of 200,000 metric tonnes over the previous year and accounting for about 20 per cent of Africa's consumption. Even the Chinese would agree that that's a lot of rice.
Then there is also Yam. It is the fourth most important calorie source after sorghum, millet, and cassava and Nigerians grow and eat around 70% of the tubers in Africa.
But now there is another player on the field and it has already carved a niche for itself along jollof rice, the assorted soups, and pottages of the land. It is the almighty Indonesian instant noodle affectionately called Indomie.
The humble instant noodle was introduced to the West African country in 1988 through export, and in 1995 Indomie in conjunction with the Tolaram Group opened its first production factory in the country. Today, the brand has become the noodle of choice for many Nigerians even though there are at least 15 other brands to choose from, including a slew made by Africa's richest man, Aliko Dangote.
According to the Kantar WorldPanel report, Nigeria has become the 12th largest instant noodle market in the world, where locals consume 1.76 billion servings of noodles annually with Indomie securing 74% of the market. While the company's three factories in Nigeria in Ogun State, Port Harcourt, and Kaduna produce 8 million packets of noodles daily, the Tolaram Group said its northern factory is the largest and most advanced. They are actually being humble because it is the largest noodle factory in Africa and runs on solar energy.
Indomie continues to evolve
"We believe that as technology is developing, we need to put all of the latest technology (in our) plants," said Pawan Sharma, the CEO of Tolaram Group. Although the northern region is densely populated, Sharma said noodle consumption in the area is lower than in southern cities.
A fact, he said, that may be attributed to financial means since the smallest packet of Indomie sells for 54 Naira (15 cents).
"Awareness is going up. The only difference is affordability. In northern Nigeria, people can't afford it. So most of the people go for products like spaghetti or curry or traditional food."
In order to produce the instant noodle, Tolaram Group has to import raw materials such as wheat and palm oil to meet the demand. Sharma said the company needs 500,000 tons of wheat annually, which is eight times more than the amount of wheat Nigeria produced between 2016 - 2017.
In the hopes of making sure Indomie's reach is vast, Sharma wants the noodles to someday become more than just a snack.
"I want to make it the main meal with products like this so that it becomes the center of the table," he said.
Looks like they are well on their way.
In moderation, including instant noodles in your diet likely won't come with any negative health effects. However, they are high in Sodium and low in nutrients, so pick a healthy variety and add in some vegetables and a protein source.