The Incredible Story of ‘Mr Noodle’

It took Momofuku Ando almost 50 years to come up with the invention that made him famous: instant cup noodles.



‘In life, it’s never too late.’ It’s a slightly quaint motto, but one that speaks to everyone. For Momofuku Ando, however, the phrase is rich with meaning, because it took him 48 years to invent instant noodles, which are now considered a symbol of Japanese pop culture.


From knitwear to salt

From then on nicknamed ‘Mr Noodle’ in Japan, his company grew significantly to become multinational, generating a net revenue of 490 million yen (almost 4 million euros) in 2017. But the inventor’s life wasn’t always such a success.

At 22, Momofuku Ando started his first business selling jumpers. After the Second World War, he threw himself into a new venture and began building rudimentary housing. He then had two stints in prison, one for dealing in black market goods and the other for tax evasion.

But this didn’t stop the entrepreneur, who started a new business in Ikeda, Osaka, in 1948. At first only a small family business that produced salt, it later turned into the multinational Nissin Foods.


The inventor of space ramen

In 1957, he lost everything overnight except for a rental property located in Ikeda. This was a difficult period, and the food crisis that affected the whole country led him to invent a system for producing ramen that was easy to prepare, eat, and store. He used the method of ‘instant dehydration using hot oil’ and thus created the first instant noodle recipe, for ‘Chicken Ramen.’

In 1971, aged 61, he launched the ‘Cup Noodles’ that became his greatest success, comprised of instant noodles packaged in a goblet-shaped container. Before long, the product was exported all over the world, having been popularised by Japanese soldiers. The story could have ended there, but no. At 91, Ando decided to invent ‘Space Ramen’, which could be eaten by astronauts in space. This new type of noodle was launched in 2005, two years before his death, which goes to show that, in life, it really is never too late.


More information about the founder of Nissin Foods can be found on the company’s website and in the museums dedicated to him, as well as to instant noodles, in Osaka and Yokohama.