Delicious results for instant noodle exports

They call it the “MaMa Index”: the rise and fall of instant noodle sales in tandem with swings in the economy. And the MaMa Index is on a bull run. Thailand’s shipments of instant noodles are soaring as people seek ways to cut costs during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Commerce said last week.

Exports of instant noodles shot up by 11 percent year-on-year during the first quarter of 2020, with a total value of $57.8 million, according to Auramon Supthaweethum, director-general of the Department of Trade Negotiations.

“The pandemic has led people to stay home and thus buy dry instant noodles that could be stored for a long period,” he said.

MaMa is the name of the most popular instant noodle brand in Thailand. According to Business Insider, “The MaMa Index is a unique economic indicator in the Thai market, which suggests that Thai instant noodles are such an integral part of the economy that they reflect what’s going on.”

When the economy is weak, sales of instant noodles increase because people have less money. When the economy is strong, people have more money to spend on more expensive foods, and so sales of instant noodles decline.

Although the MaMa Index has been considered a domestic economic indicator, it is becoming a trade and regional indicator. Southeast Asia is the biggest market for Thai instant noodle exports, with neighboring Cambodia, the biggest importer, followed by Myanmar, Laos, and Viet Nam.

In 2019, Thailand was the world’s third-largest exporter of instant noodles behind China and South Korea.

Photo courtesy of