Inventor of instant noodles passes away

Sunday, January 7, 2007

The inventor of instant noodles has died in Japan at the age of 96. Momofuku Ando suffered from acute heart failure on Friday, said Nissin Food Company.

Momofuku Ando was born as Wu Bai-fu (吳百福) in Chiayi, Taiwan, on March 5, 1910. He founded Nissin in the year 1948 from a humble family operation. Japan faced food shortages during the post-World War II period and Ando thought a quality, convenient noodle product would help feed the masses. He brought out the Chicken Ramen, the first noodle product in the year 1958. The chicken-flavored dried noodle cake could be served in minutes by pouring hot water over it in a bowl. He started exporting it to the US during 1970.

The Cup Noodle concept was born in 1971. Ando said, he was inspired when he saw people lining up to buy bowls of hot ramen soup at a black market stall during this period. Its taste and ease of preparation made it one of the most favorite food in the world. The Chicken Ramen product had been a hit, and the despite a hefty tag of 35 Yen, he unleashed the product – Cup Noodles, on the market.

Nissin has been the undisputed leader of the noodle industry since then, selling a 85.7 billion servings every year, according to Agence France Presse.

"The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum" opened in 1999 in Ikeda City in western Japan housing his various inventions.

His firm also developed a version of Cup Noodles for Japanese astronauts to eat on Space Shuttle Discovery. "It is like a dream that people from rivaling countries can eat Ramen together in space," were Ando's words to the reporters at that time. He retired as the chairman of Nissin in the year 2005. The Japanese newspapers have been paying tribute to him by publishing long obituaries and eulogies. According to the Mainichi Shimbun, Ando was last seen in public on Wednesday when he made a New Year's speech at Nissin's head office in Osaka and had a lunch with executives, a bowl of Chicken Ramen with rice cake.

The incumbent Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger had been one of the celebrities to endorse the brand.

Ando is survived by his wife, Masako; two sons; and a daughter. His son Koki Ando is president of Nissin Food Products Co. Ltd.