Instant Ramen - Innovation of Century

Instant Ramen - Innovation of Century
Ando Momofuku Ando (1910 – 2007) was a Taiwanese-Japanese businessman who founded Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd. He is famed as the inventor of instant noodles and cup noodles.

Ando was born Wu Pai-fu in 1910 into a wealthy Taiwanese family in Kagi County, Taiwan (under Japanese rule). Ando's parents died when he was at an early age. He was raised by his grandparents in Tainan. His grandparents owned a small textiles store, which inspired him to start his own textiles company using 190,000 yen, at the age of 22, in Eirakucho, Taipei.

In 1933, Ando travelled to Osaka, Japan on business. After World War II, Ando became a Japanese citizen and moved to Japan, where he entered Ritsumeikan University and at the same time founded a small merchandising firm in Osaka with the inheritance from his family. "Momofuku" is the Japanese reading of his Chinese given name, while "Ando" is a common Japanese surname.

He was convicted of tax evasion in 1948 and served two years in jail. In his biography, Ando said he had provided scholarships for students, which at the time was a form of tax evasion. After he lost his company due to a chain reaction bankruptcy, Ando founded what was to become Nissin in Ikeda, Osaka, Japan, starting off as a small family-run company producing salt.

With Japan still suffering from a shortage of food in the post-war-era, the Ministry of Health tried to encourage people to eat bread made from wheat flour that was supplied by the United States. Ando wondered why bread was recommended instead of noodles, which were more familiar to the Japanese. The Ministry's response was that noodle companies were too small and unstable to satisfy supply needs, so Ando decided to develop the production of noodles by himself. The experience convinced him that "Peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat."

On August 25, 1958, at the age of 48, and after months of trial and error experimentation to perfect his flash-frying method, Ando marketed the first package of precooked instant noodles. Called Chickin Ramen, after the original chicken flavor, it was originally considered a luxury item with a price of ¥35, around six times that of traditional udon and soba noodles at the time. Ando began the sales of his most famous product, Cup Noodle, on September 18, 1971 with the masterstroke of providing a waterproof polystyrene container. As prices dropped, instant ramen soon became a booming business. Worldwide demand reached 98 billion servings in 2007. As of 2007, Chickin Ramen is still sold in Japan and now retails for around ¥60, or approximately one third the price of the cheapest bowl of noodles in a Japanese restaurant.

In 1964, seeking a way to promote the instant noodle industry, Ando founded the Instant Food Industry Association, which set guidelines for fair competition and product quality, introducing several industry standards such as the inclusion of production dates on packaging. He was also the chairman of the International Ramen Manufacturers' Association and the Ando Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum is named after him.

According to the Financial Times, Ando’s invention of Cup Noodles in 1971, at the age of 61, helped spark the popularity of instant noodles overseas. He had observed that Americans ate noodles by breaking the noodles in half, putting them into a cup, and dousing hot water over the noodles. They also ate them with a fork instead of chopsticks. Ando was inspired, and felt that a Styrofoam cup—with a narrower bottom than the top—would be the ideal vessel for holding noodles and keeping them warm. Eating the noodles would then be as easy as opening the lid, adding hot water and waiting. This simplicity, efficiency and low price of Cup Noodles went on to transform Nissin's fortunes.

Ando was repeatedly honored with medals by the Japanese government and the emperor, including The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, Second Class, in 2002 which is the second most prestigious Japanese decoration for Japanese civilians.

In May 2009, Gotham Books published The Ramen King and I: How the Inventor of Instant Noodles Fixed My Love Life, a memoir by Andy Raskin about how Momofuku Ando changed his life.

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