Inventive Ingenuity: The Ramen King
On August 25, 1958, Ando's packets of instant ramen went on sale in grocery stores throughout Japan. Priced at about six times the cost of fresh noodles, instant ramen was considered a luxury item. Within a year, however, the ease and convenience of the Nissin product made it a hit with consumers.
As sales increased, prices dropped. Currently, a single-serving package of instant ramen retails in Japan for about one-third the cost of its freshly made counterpart.
While packages of instant ramen are currently available in 16 flavors, the original Chikin (Chicken) Ramen played a significant role in Ando's plans for global success. In How I Invented Magic Noodles - his 2002, self-published autobiography - he explained how Nissin was able to use chicken flavoring to circumvent religious objections in different countries. "Hindus may not eat beef and Muslims may not eat pork, but there is not a single culture, religion or country that forbids the eating of chicken."
In 1971, Ando introduced "Cup Noodles", packed in a styrofoam cup that served as a vessel in which the noodles could be cooked and then eaten. In 1999, he opened the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda City near Osaka. In 2005, he introduced "Space Ramen", instant ramen noodles in vacuum-packs specially made for Soichi Noguchi, a Japanese astronaut who rode into space aboard the space shuttle Discovery.
Ando relinquished everyday control over Nissin in 2005 when he stepped down from the Presidency in favor of the less strenuous founder-chairman post. With the extra leisure time available to him, he indulged his passions for golf and eating Chikin Ramen.
When Mr. Ando died in January, Nissin Foods Food Products Company, established as a tiny, family-run, salt-making factory in 1948, had grown into a multi-billion-dollar manufacturing empire with plants in Japan, the United States, Hong Kong, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Singapore, China, the Philippines, Thailand, Hungary, and Germany.
It seems reasonable to assume that Mr. Ando will soon be granted membership in the select group of regular Japanese citizens, who are recipients of the Order of the Chrysanthemum.
Mr. Ando is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.
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Michael Daisy, our Guest Blogger, is a freelance writer and publicist. He is also a history fan (or buff), and music fan currently working on an aural documentary of popular music in the U.S. from 1940-2000. He wanted to share his knowledge of the inventors and inventions that have touched our lives with the readers of InventorSpot.com.