Business & Economy

Cup Noodles: half a century of revolutionizing instant food

By Antonio Hermosín Gandul

Tokyo, Sep 18 (EFE).- Exactly half a century ago, Japanese entrepreneur Momofuku Ando invented an instant dish which could be eaten in its own packaging container after just adding hot water, forever revolutionizing the food industry, as millions of packets of the products continue to be sold daily.

The preparation was first marketed as cup noodles on Sep. 18, 1971, and went on to become Ando’s biggest achievement as part of his quest to mass produce affordable and easy-to-eat food in post-war Japan.

After first being launched in Japan, over 50 billion cups of the noodles have been sold across over 100 countries, according to data provided by the company Nissin, founded by Ando.

Born in Taiwan in 1910 during the Japanese occupation of the island, “the father of cup noodles” is one of the most admired figures in contemporary Japan, both in the business world as well as popular culture. 

Ando invented his culinary novelties through the trial and error method, guided by his curiosity and capacity to observe, according to the autobiographical books he wrote and a Yokohama-based museum dedicated to cup noodles.

The entrepreneur is said to have worked day and night in a small barrack turned culinary lab, which in 1958 gave the world its first instant noodles, Chicken Ramen, that would prove to be the precursor to the cup variety.

Noodles fried at high temperature for a brief period – the same technique used in tempura (Japanese deep-fried food) – helped Ando fulfill his four requirements: a good and addictive taste, long shelf life, being easy to cook and easy on the pocket.

The product hit the market at a price of 35 yen per cup (equivalent to $5.5 today after adjusting inflation), in a Japan that had been hit by food shortages after World War II, with United States-supplied flour being one of the main sustenance for people.

Not content with the domestic success of Chicken Ramen, Ando kept experimenting and observed during a trip to the United States that locals there ate their instant noodles in paper cups using forks, unlike the bowl and chopstick tradition back home.

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