Korean noodle maker in hot water over advertising

Mon Jun 27, 2011 5:34am EDT
 
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SEOUL (Reuters Life!) - Top South Korean noodle maker Nongshim Co Ltd ran into unexpected trouble from the nation's fair trade officials, who Monday slapped the company with a steep fine for exaggerating the nutritional value of a new brand of instant noodles.

The company said the "Shin Ramyun Black" brand, launched to commemorate its 25th year in business, was "close to a perfect food" -- but trade officials begged to differ, fining the company 155 million won ($143,670).

"This was exposed as not true at all. The company said one thing and means another," said Lim Sung-chan, spokesman for the Fair Trade Commission, in an interview with Reuters.

"This noodle, which is twice or nearly three times as expensive as others, used enticing comments such as 'close to perfect food' and 'the most idealized and balanced noodle,' but consumers said the only thing different from other noodles was the price."

The "Shin Ramyun Black" retails for 1,400 to 1,700 won, whereas most other instant noodles sell for around 563 won.

A Nongshim spokesman said the company accepted what the Fair Trade Commission said and would work to rebuild the image of the company.

Nongshim's Shin Ramyun, which literally means "spicy noodle" in Korean, is one of the popular brands that gave the company a more than 60 percent market share of the instant noodle market in 2010. It is also sold in China, the United States and Japan.

(Reporting by Seongbin Kang, editing by Elaine Lies)