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 Chikin 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 (Kappu Nūdoru, 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, Chikin 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 Momofuku Ando 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. Ando died of heart failure on January 5, 2007 at a hospital in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture at the age of 96. Ando is survived by his wife Masako, two sons and a daughter. Ando claimed that the secret of his long life was playing golf and eating Chikin Ramen (Chicken Ramen) almost every day. He was said to have eaten instant ramen until the day before he died.
- March, 05, 1910
- Kagi County, Taiwan
- January, 05, 2007
- Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture