This is a site dedicated to the noodle man. We want to make the life of Momofuku Ando heard among a younger generation. In America, the fame of Shark Tank and younger entrepreneurs has given a rise of appreciation to those starting business in America. But amazing entrepreneurs can be found all over the world.
We are excited to explore his life and show a new era of businessmen and businesswomen what can be accomplished with a clear mind and a clear plan of action.
The life and times of Momofuku Ando
Instant Ramen—now a household term. Growing up as a child, when you weren’t happy with what was for dinner, or when mum was unable to cook, or when you went to college and had a tiny budget, or when you just felt like it, instant ramen and cup noodles were (and may remain) a staple of your existence! Ever question where they came from? Which genius thought 3-minute noodles would be the perfect solution to a recurring food dilemma? Or who came up with the notion that the entire world with its countless cuisines and diversifying tastes would rally around this product? The answer to all those questions and countless others is Mr. Momofuku Ando.
In the early 1950s, Mr. Momofuku Ando founded Nissin Foods which in its infancy was a small family-run enterprise producing salt. By the end of 1958, Nissin was about to begin its transformation into the industry by introducing this beloved product. It was hard to predict by any metrics in those days how huge a hit this was going to be for the company and for Momofuku—that this invention was going to catapult him into the upper echelons of inventors and investors, that an idea could bear such fruit was a dream soon to be transformed into reality as the fame of this ingenious product spread across the world.
Let us walk through the life and times of Mr. Ando, which will give you an insight in his drives and the ambition which led him to the epitome of the instant-food industry.
The Early Years
Born into a well to do Taiwanese (at that time Japanese territory) family, Mr. Ando suffered great personal loss at a very tender age, due to the death of his parents. At the critical time his paternal grandparents stepped up and took up the heavy responsibility of raising Mr. Ando in the modern day city of Tainan. His grandparents had a small textile shop, adjacent to where Mr. Ando was brought up.
Early Adult Life
Thus it came as to no surprise that his first venture in adult life was starting an independent textile business in what has now come to be known as Taipei at the young age of 22. This passion was to continue for some years to come following him to Osaka as he took up matriculation at the Ritsumeikan University while simultaneously developing a clothing lines.
Life was not about to get easy to Mr. Ando any time soon. In 1948 through a series of unfortunate events the company he headed went bankrupt and left Ando virtually penniless. To compound his miseries he was-convicted of tax fraud and sentenced to two years in prison. It was his staunch stance that he was proving scholarship to needy students and that that act was perceived as tax evasion. In his biography he vehemently claimed innocence.
World War 2
As was the nature of the extremely turbulent times in the mid-1900s, calamity soon broke out in the form of World War 2. As the situation would unfold Japan lost control of Taiwan and Mr. Ando was forced to choose between his Japanese heritage and his commercial and residential entities in what was now Taiwan- under the control of the-republic of China. Faced with a situation where there was no middle ground, Mr. Ando chose Taiwan in-order to keep this holdings but opted to stay as a non-Japanese citizen in Japan.
Post war Japan and indeed the world was a very harsh reality. While Mr. Ando was fortunate enough to have retained most of his wealth, much of his country could not say the same. Japanese culture and his own family values dictated that Mr. Ando took notice of the worsening situation. He was filled an immense worry for his country and its citizens, compounded by post war destruction, food shortages amongst countless other problems. At one point the food situation had gotten so extreme that the Ministry of-Health was recommending if not urging its citizens to eat wheat bread exported by a foreign nation instead of rice or noodles-items that its own citizens were obviously more comfortable and familiar with. So damaged were the agricultural and food industries of post war japan that the country was unable to provide a sustainable and unlimited supply of staple food products to its own citizens.
It was time to act. Hearing what he was hearing and seeing what he was seeing about the crippling food situation in Japan Mr. Ando decided to rise up to the challenge that no one seemed to be effectively combatting. He realized and took into account 2 very important things. One that sustenance to the Japanese daily life revolved around noodles and two that in this post war modernistic yet monetarily tight era, the masses required a product that was both quick and easy to make, provided instant familiarity in terms of taste, sight and consistency and was very easy on the pocket. No doubt that ticking all the boxes on the checklist was an astronomical task.
The Noodle Business Begins
They say an idea is like a cancer. Once implanted in one’s head, it takes firm roots, and grows exponentially. It is safe to say that that very philosophy held very true for the Mr. Ando. Taking matters into his own hand, he decided that we would go into the noodle business and produce a sustainable model of continued production. It was his sincere belief that “Peace, will come to the-world when people have enough to eat.”
What started was a classic invention story. He set up a small lab in the rickety shed behind his house, spending one entire year, pouring all his energy into this project. After months of-trial and error, of genius ideas not coming to fruition, in August 1958 at the entrepreneurial age of 48, Ando revealed to the world what was to soon become his signature project- Precooked packaged instant noodles. Available in one flavor initially the classic Chicken Ramen proved to be an instant success. However such was the cost of production at that point in time that it was initially priced as a luxury item, not affordable indeed to the common man or beating anything served at the cheapest of restaurants. This was obviously unacceptable to Ando, seeing as it was that the entire purpose of the instant noodles was to be cheap and readily accessible to the masses.
While the concept was fantastic Ando realized that the entire product needed much refinement and tinkering if this was truly realize its potential and reach global popularity. Ando’s business interests had granted him multiple opportunities to travel around the world. One such country he had visited multiple times was the United States of America. A keen observer of social trends and norms, Ando soon noticed that the way Americans cooked their noodles was unique. He found that they would break the entire pack of noodles in half,put them in a bottom of a bowl and then pour hot water over them, using forks to eat the noodles and using the bowl to sip the remaining soup’. This observation was the spark Ando needed to re-engineer his product line.
A New Product
Thus in 1971, Ando started to market a new product, Instant Cup Noodles, revolutionizing the very concept of noodles. He introduced was is now ingrained in our mindsets the way we look at cup noodles-narrow at the bottom and widening up towards the top. The concept just requiring one to take the lid off and adding hot water- ready to eat ramen. This simple yet brilliant idea combining ingenious design, the famous Japanese minimalistic approach and sure shot efficiency was the catalyst behind the surge in fortunes that Nissin Foods was going to soon begin to enjoy. Adding a recyclable Styrofoam cup, waterproof covering and the good the fortune of a global drop in prices, the instant noodles were the dream was everyone had been waiting for. November 1971 onwards this dream became a global reality.
A Business man by heart, blood and ambition, Ando realized that innovation breeds competition and one needs to stay ahead of the curve and reign in other competitors. That someone else might come in, cut into his market with below standard products and cunning marketing, Ando set his sights of ramen production regulation. His noodle business was booming and others were beginning to take notice and they wanted to a slice of the pie so to speak. In order to control future challenges Ando set up Instant Food-industry Association serving as its founding member. Through this magnanimous organization he managed to get every single other instant noodle producing company to the table, setting up stringent production guidelines, production standards, quality control checks. These would be enacted to the highest levels quality with the goal being to promote customer safety and satisfaction. Indeed it was through this very association that Ando forced companies to publish date of production on each individual item box and the ever familiar mark on the cups that would indicate how much water to full to in each cup of noodles.
In the era of the explosion of fast food, Ando concluded that the next big thing would be instant foods and he realized that this particular association would not be able to keep its focus on ramen and other product lines might soon take over. It was this trepidation that led to him to found and become the founding chairperson of the international-Ramen Manufacturers’ association. Such was his passion for his product that was willing to spend all his energies and efforts into securing its long term future and viability. It was due to his unending efforts that we are all so familiar with instant ramen today and that each packet still tastes the exact same as we remember our very first package whenever we had one. Never compromise on quality was a mantra his company follows to this day.
Such was the contribution to the very fabric of Japanese society and indeed to the whole world that it was only fair and expected that Mr. Ando would be rightly and heavily recognized for the work and unending service to the Japanese people. His efforts were recognized countless times by the Japanese-government and more importantly for him the Royal Emperor himself and indeed even by governments of other countries like Thailand. He was awarded the Medal of-honor with Blue ribbon in 1977, Order of the Sacred-Treasure, Second Class, Gold & Silver Star in 1982, Medal of-Honor with Purple Ribbon in 1983, the “Distinguished Service Award” in 1982 from the Director-General of the Science and Technology Agency and the Order of-the Rising Sun, Second Class,Gold & Silver Star in 2002. Thailand in 2001 awarded him the Order of-the Direkgunabhorn of Thailand,Fourth Class. All these honors seemed to embed in him a deep sense of humility and respect for his people and served as token of appreciation for the countless hours of service and the dedication he had for his cause.
The End Of His Life
In early 1966 much to the delight of Mr. Ando he become a naturalized Japanese citizen by marriage. It was at this point that life had come around a full circle for Ando. By 2003 age had crept up with Ando and his personal health started deteriorating, rarely remaining stable for long periods. He finally passed away peacefully due to heart failure , surrounded by close friends and family on January 5th, 2007 at a-hospital in Ikeda,Osaka Prefecture at-the age of 96.
During his lifetime he had accomplished most of what he set out to do. His tremendous successes and sporadic failures were always on display for the world to see. His most celebrated achievements were known across the far corners of the earth. He was humble respectful and dedicated to bettering the life for those around him and his legacy only proved as much. Ando’s commitment to his product and the love he had for his work will remain a lasting lesson and model for all those wishing to be successful at what they do. Momofuku Ando was and will forever remain and food industry legend.