The Incredible Story of ‘Mr Noodle’

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



‘In life, it’s never too late’. It’s a slightly quaint motto, but one that speaks to everyone. But for Momofuku Ando, 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 then on nicknamed ‘Mr Noodle’ in Japan, his company grew significantly to become a multinational that generated 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 him, in 1948. This later turned into the multinational Nissin Foods. At first, it was only a small family business that produced salt.


In 1957, he lost everything overnight except for a rental property located in Ikeda. This was a difficult period, and the food crisis which 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 noodles’ that could be eaten by astronauts in space. These were launched in 2005, two years before his death. Which goes to prove that, in life, it really is never too late.