Late last Friday, Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant Ramen and “Cup Noodles” passed away in Japan at 96. Ando-san’s original invention of instant ramen in 1958 became the cornerstone of an entire industry, which was revolutionized a second time when the company he founded and led, Nissin, introduced “Cup Noodles” in 1971.
Ando-san got the idea for instant noodles after watching Japanese civilians suffer from poor nutrition during the closing years of World War II. His quest for a healthy easy-to-prepare meal for the masses led him to invent instant noodles in the tiny kitchen of his post-war home. In fact, his first product in 1958 — Chicken Ramen– was so tasty that became a huge hit despite the fact that it sold for five times what fresh ramen noodles cost at the time. Japanese consumers considered it a luxury item back then, and though the price has dropped considerably since, Ando’s ramen is of course as tasty as ever.
Over the last half century, Ando’s instant ramen has fortified everyone from students to cops, firefighters and busy office workers. It is truly ubiquituous — they even offer it as a snack in First Class on Singapore Airlines. Here in Silicon Valley, instant ramen occupies a very special place as the meal that fueled multiple generations of hackers and engineers over the years. In fact, considering the dubious nutritional value of other staples of the hacker diet like Jolt Cola and Doritos, it is likely that the only healthy meal many start-up engineers ate in weeks at a time was instant ramen and Cup Noodles. So thank you Ando-san, not only did you feed us all through college; your culinary genius has contributed immeasurably to the creation of countless other innovations delivered by manic innovators and start-ups in Silicon Valley.
For more on Ando-san and his invention, see: Revolution in a bowl: Ramen Inventor Fueled Valley Innovators