January 18, 2007 by

Momofuku Ando

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Categories: Business

mando.jpgIn modern day America, the average price for milk is $3 a gallon. Bread costs $2.39 a loaf and hamburger is $3.99/lb. Yet, as many hungry college students know, it is still possible to eat an entire meal for under a dollar. Thanks to Momofuku Ando.
Ando was born in Taiwan when the island was still under Japanese rule. His parents died during his infancy so his grandparents raised him. He studied at Ritsumeikan University and ran clothing companies in Taipei and Osaka before opening the Nissin Food Products Co. in 1948. That same year, Ando was convicted of tax evasion for providing scholarships to students. He spent two years in jail then lost nearly all of his assets after a credit union he used went bankrupt.
Since many poor and working class families faced food shortages after World War II, Ando decided to help feed the masses, and recoup his losses, by creating an affordable and convenient foodstuff. After a great deal of trial and error, he introduced “Chicken Ramen” in 1958. The fried ramen noodles simply required submersion in boiling water, and the addition of flavoring that was provided in a small packet, to become a meal. At the time, “Chicken Ramen” was considered a luxury item since Japanese grocery stores sold fresh noodles at one-sixth the cost of Ando’s product. Within a year, however, his “instant” food became a hit with consumers.
Over the next five decades, Ando’s ramen noodles found favor with the inexperienced cook, the hungry office worker and the starving student. More than 85 billion servings are sold annually, usually for $.10 to $.25 per package. Dozens of cookbooks and Websites pay homage to instant ramen noodles and offer recipes such as Mac-a-Ramen and Cheese, Top Ramen pizza and noodle strudel.
Nissin currently produces 16 flavors of Top Ramen as well as the popular “Cup Noodle” soup. For nearly a decade, a 60 ft., steaming Cup Noodle sign graced Times Square, inviting all to partake of Nissin’s warm and hearty foods. Ramen noodles even made it into outer space in 2005 when Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi took instant noodles in a pouch on board the U.S. space shuttle Discovery.
The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum, which honors Ando’s business achievements, opened in Ikeda City, Japan, in 1999. Three years later, he self-published his autobiography, “How I Invented Magic Noodles.” Although Ando retired as Nissin’s chairman in 2005, “The Ramen King” gave a speech at the company’s New Year ceremony, and continued to eat his famed product for lunch on a daily basis. His son Koko now runs the family business.
Ando died on Jan. 5 from a heart attack. He was 96.

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