“There’s no wrong way to eat a noodle.”
When we last saw him, Momofuku Ando had just invented an incredibly popular instant ramen product, which was selling like hotcakes. (It’s a food simile!) His noodles were a huge hit, but Ando had big dreams. He wanted the whole damn world to eat them, so traveling to different countries and doing promotion became an important part of his job.
Legend has it that on a visit to the United States to promote Chikin Ramen, Ando saw supermarket workers breaking bricks of the product in half, dropping them into styrofoam coffee cups, then adding boiling water. When the soup had cooked, it was eaten…with a fork?!
Now, instant ramen was designed to be cooked in a pot, and eaten in a bowl with chopsticks. That’s the way you eat ramen! But did Ando scold these silly ramen newbies for “doing it wrong”? NO! Did he add more instructions to the package so folks would quit doing ridiculous things to his noodles? NO! Our brilliant inventor recognized that people were using the tools they had to enjoy his product in the most convenient way. He saw an opportunity to make it even easier for them.
Over the next few years, Ando oversaw the development of a brand new product called Cup Noodles. The inventive design allowed one vessel to be used as packaging, cooking pot, and serving dish. The “cup” included noodles, soup base powder, and toppings. The consumer could peel back the lid, add boiling water, replace the lid, wait three minutes, and enjoy a complete meal, even if they were on-the-go. Oh, and it came with a fork.
When you’re attempting to create a product with global appeal, it’s pretty important to focus on the ways we’re the same. It’s hard to find a place on the planet where there aren’t workers who need a meal away from home. Who don’t have access to a kitchen, or much money, or much time. If you can give them a way to eat something warm and filling, and, let’s be honest, fun, you’re onto something. Momofuku Ando had done it again.