Unilever bets on instant noodle demand with €20m factory investment

12 Oct 2023

Unilever will invest nearly €20 million at its instant noodle factory in Poland as it looks to increase production of Knorr, UNOX and Amino noodles and meet rising European demand for convenient meal options.

On 2 October 2023, Unilever announced a €19.4 million investment at its instant noodle factory in Poznan, Poland. The soup-to-soap manufacturer said this would ensure it was prepped to meet an increased demand for instant noodles, thanks to fully automated lines that would boost noodle production and efficiency.

Unilever bets on instant noodle demand with €20m factory investment
© Unilever

Dynamic growth forecast

According to Unilever, affordable and convenient, instant noodles have successfully made the jump from speciality restaurant treat to an at-home staple over the past few years throughout Europe. Originally developed in post-war Japan as a quick and easy meal for workers, instant noodles have therefore been identified as a strategically important category by the multinational manufacturer.

Michaela Franekova, nutrition lead for East Europe at Unilever, said: “Noodles are one of our priority categories, with great growth potential not only in Poland but also throughout Europe.”

She added that the UK is currently the biggest market in Western Europe, followed by Poland.

“The noodle market in Europe is still growing dynamically and according to Euromonitor, further volume growth is forecast – 7% volume growth by 2027 in Eastern Europe, taking 2023 as the baseline, and 10.8% in Western Europe,” said Franekova.

Factory optimisation: Increased output, reduced waste

The investment will allow Unilever to increase output at the Poznan factory, which is already the largest European production site for its nutrition business.

Credit: © Unilever© Unilever

New technology will increase the hourly production of noodles sold under its Knorr, UNOX and Amino brands while also optimising water and electricity use, and reducing waste. Key to this optimisation is the introduction of both physical and digital automation along the production process, it said.

The new automated lines will have the same layout as existing ones but will operate at twice the efficiency and should produce 600,000 units a day. Noodle products from the Poznan factory will be distributed in Poland, the Netherlands, Hungary, and the rest of Europe.

Mintel: Quest for convenience drives instant noodle demand

According to market research company Mintel, convenience is a significant driver of instant pasta, rice and noodle product development in Europe as consumers look for fuss-free and quick-to-prepare meal options.

“The events of the last few years have brought about changes to the work/life patterns of many consumers. The resulting growth of hybrid work means consumers are looking for food and drink solutions that align with their more casual and flexible schedules,” wrote Mikolaj Kaczorowski, innovation analyst at Mintel in a 2023 report on innovations in pasta, rice, and noodles.

Credit: © Unilever© Unilever

“This change in working patterns is relevant for the instant pasta, rice and noodle sub-categories, which are ideally suited to consumers seeking quick, convenient and easy-to-prepare meals, sides or snacks, whether at work or home,” he added.

Nearly one in four Spanish adults (39%) said they choose “easy” – in other words quick-to-prepare – foods most of the time, according to a 1,000-strong Mintel survey.