While ramen instant noodle might be an ubiquitous presence on supermarket shelves around the world, there's one country that has yet to discover the budget dish's delights: Turkey. But that is about to change. As the Wall Street Journal's Japan edition reports, Nissin Foods, the Japanese maker of the instant noodles that have been a lifesaver for students around the world, is preparing to invade the Turkish market. From the WSJ:
On Tuesday, Nissin said it will spend $23.5 million to buy a 50% stake in pasta maker Bellini Gida Sanayi A.S. from Turkey’s biggest consumer product maker Yildiz Holdings A.S.
In Turkey, homemade dishes are popular and there’s no market for instant noodles. But Nissin is banking that Turkey’s rapid economic growth will start pushing busy workers to simplify their meals.
One of the attractive points of the Turkish market is that its population is expected to grow 1 million per year by the year 2030 from the current 75 million. The nation’s per capita gross domestic product also exceeds $10,000, suggesting it has high growth potential.
Another promising factor is that the market’s average age is 28 compared with Nissin’s home market of Japan where the largest segment of the population is in their 60s.
Nissin expects annual demand in Turkey will quickly grow to more than 1 billion instant noodle bowls within five to ten years, compared with 5.5 billion bowls in Japan.
While Nissin has found little resistance in other countries, succeeding in Turkey might be a different story. Yes, Turkey is growing economically and workers are busy, but never too busy to sit down for a proper lunch of the kind of homestyle food that one might eat in their own mother's kitchen. There's another factor that might be working against ramen noodles cracking the Turkish market -- a glut of women, the traditional home cooks in Turkey, who are not active in the workplace. From a recent column in the Hurriyet Daily News by economist Guven Sak:
According to the recent TurkStat figures, Turkey has around 12.3 million housewives. That is markedly higher than the 8 million women in the labor force. Korea, in contrast, has 10.5 million economically active women. Let us get a bit deeper into the numbers: Last year, the number of Turkish women to declare themselves housewives in response to not being part of the labor force was around 11.7 million. This number increased to 12.3 million this year. So in early 2012, the number of housewives increased by around 500,000. Does that mean that women in Turkey prefer to make dolma and watch daytime television over a steady paycheck? I don’t think so. Compulsion, rather than preference, is at work here.
The combination of a growing mostly-male workforce longing for their mother's cooking and a rising number of out-of-work women who can provide that cooking may very well spell trouble for Nissin's plans to conquer Turkey.