On March 5, 1910, Taiwanese–Japanese inventor and Businessman Momofuku Ando was born. Ando is known as one of the inventors of instant noodles, instant ramen, and Cup Noodles. He founded Nissin Food Products Co., Ltd.
Poor college students around the globe know that every day is a good day for instant (ramen) noodles. They are filling, incredibly cheap as well as fast and easy to prepare. Taking a trip down memory lane myself, I was also eager to explore all the different flavors instant ramen offered to me at such a low price during the first semester at university. This student “super food” was invented by Taiwanese–Japanese Momofuku Ando who initially followed his family’s path in the textile industry. Ando’s family owned a small textiles store and Ando opened a clothing company in Osaka, Japan while still studying economics and Ritsumeikan University.
The famous Nissin Food company was founded after 1948, after a series of unfortunate events. At first, Ando was convicted of tax evasion serving two years in jail. However, in his biography, the inventor stated that back then he had provided scholarships for students which was considered tax evasion. Then, Momofuku Ando lost his clothing company after a chain reaction bankruptcy in war torn Japan. The Nissin company was founded in Ikeda, Osaka, Japan and started out as a family-run salt production company.
After World War II, Japan suffered from shortage of food for quite some years. Back then, bread made from wheat flour was provided to the Japanese citizens which the country’s Ministry of Health encouraged people to eat. It has been delivered that one day, Momufuku Ando took a walk through the streets and noticed people gathering and lining up outside a small shop waiting a long time for some comforting ramen noodles. Ando apparently began to wonder why instead of noodles which were much more familiar to the Japanese, bread was recommended by the government. He found out that the available noodle companies were too small unable to really satisfy the demand, but he believed that “peace will come to the world when all its people have enough to eat”. Momofuku Ando decided to develop producing noodles himself. Ando made up five categories that help to create the perfect food for the post-war crisis: it had to be tasty and should possibly have a long shelf-life, it should be prepared in no time, it should be very cheap and healthy.
In 1958, after a long time of experimentation, the inventor was able to market the very first package of precooked instant noodles. The first original flavor was named Chikin Ramen. However, when the noodles hit the market, they were considered a luxury as they were quite expensive. As we all know, these noodles are today very cheap and are still sold in Japan as well.
In 1971, Momofuku Ando also developed the famous Cup Noodles which increased the popularity for instant noodles in the United States and also Europe. Ando had the idea to create a Styrofoam cup with a narrow bottom and a wider top for his noodles so that only hot water was poured over them and were ready to eat in 3 minutes.
Already in the 1960s, Momofuku Ando founded the Instant Food Industry Association, setting guidelines for competition and product quality. Ando further served as chairman of the International Ramen Manufacturers’ Association.
At yovisto you can learn more about What`s wrong with our food system in a TED Talk by Birke Baehr.
References and Further Reading:
- The Humble Origins of Instant Ramen: From Ending World Hunger to Space Noodles
- The History of Instant Noodles at the World Instant Noodles Association
- The History of Instant Ramen and Cup Noodles at Nissin Foods
- The History of Ramen Noodles at the New Yorker