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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: Instant Ramen

Today in #Brand History: In 1958, Momofuku Ando marketed the first package of precooked instant noodles under the brand name "Chikin Ramen". He went on to launch "Cup Noodles" in 1971.

Ando was born Go Pek-Hok in Japanese controlled Taiwan in 1910. His grandparents owned a small textiles store, which inspired him at the age of 22, to start his own textiles company. He moved to Osaka in 1933 to study economics at a local university, while alos establishing a clothing company. After World War II, he became a naturalized Japanese citizen.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. In his biography, he stated that he provided scholarships for students, which turns out, was considered tax evasion. Ando was charged and convicted in 1948 and served two years in jail. As a result, he lost his company in bankruptcy. He then founded Chuko Sosha, a small company producing salt. That company eventually became Nissin Food Products.

(Here is a point where the math gets fuzzy. He was in prison from 1948 - 1950, but Nissin, as Chuko Sosha, lists its founding in 1948. Maybe his first office was a jail cell?)

Post World War II, there was a significant food shortage in Japan, so the government encouraged its citizens to eat bread with wheat flour, imported from the United States. Ando couldn't understand why bread was recommended over noodles, as it was more familiar to the Japanese. The problem was, there weren't companies that could produce noodles in mass quantities. Believing that "peace will come to the world when the people have enough to eat", Ando began to experiment with a flash-frying method of noodles, so that they were pre-cooked and only needed to be reconstituted. And in 1958, Chiken Ramen was launched.

It was originally considered a luxury in Japan, costing six times what traditional udon or soba noodles would cost, but it was convenient and caught on, eventually being sold in the United States. Ando noticed that Americans would break the noodle "brick" in half and put them in a paper cup, pouring boiling water on top, eating them with a fork, not chopsticks. Inspired, Ando invented Cup Noodles with a unique a waterproof polystyrene cup. A year later, during the Asama-Sansō hostage standoff in Nagano Prefecture, Japan, pictures of riot police eating Cup Noodles went "viral" on national television (in a "1972" sort of way) which sparked the popularity of one of the top selling foods today.

He was said to have eaten instant ramen until the day he died in 2007, at the age of 97. Guess what I am eating for dinner! (Ever since I posted about the launch of Encyclopedia Britannica, and they responded with "love, but a correction" because I had the wrong date, I've tried to dig deeper and not only learned more, but tried to check my facts. That said, I still can't say that everything I've written is if you find something you don't think is right, let me know. Encyclopedia Britannica was kind enough to!)


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