Taking inspiration from his grandparents who were the owners of a small business store for textiles, Momofuku Ando spent about 190,000 Yen which he had received as inheritance from his parents to start a textile company in Daitotei (Taipei) at the age of twenty-two.
He went to Osaka, Japan, in 1933 to study economics at the Ritsumeikan University. While studying there he started a clothing company.
After the Second World War he became a Japanese citizen. His original Chinese name of Go Pek-Hok was changed to the Japanese name of Momofuku and the Japanese surname Ando was added to it.
A case of tax evasion was brought against him in 1948 and he was sent to jail where he spent almost two years. He had given out scholarships to needy students and this was considered a form of tax evasion then.
He lost his clothing company due to bankruptcy and started a small family-owned salt producing company in Ikeda, Osaka. This company was the fore-runner of the present day company.
Japan was reeling under food shortage after the war and the authorities requested the people to eat bread made from the wheat flour supplied by USA as there were no stable noodle producing companies big enough to meet the demand. It was in these circumstances he decided to carry out experiments to make noodles on a large scale.
After much experimentation he developed a flash-frying method and sold the first packet of instant noodles on 25th of August, 1958 when he was 48 years old. The original product was named ‘Chikin Ramen’ which cost 35 Yen at the time. It was considered a luxury as it cost almost six times more than a serving of soba or udon noodles.
He came out with the first cup noodle product packed in a waterproof container made from polystyrene on 18th September, 1971. It was an instant hit and this masterstroke converted his company into a booming business overnight.
He founded the ‘Instant Food Industry Association’ in 1964 to set guidelines for ramen production such as fair competition, printing the production date on the packet etc. He also became the chairman of the ‘International Ramen Manufacturers Association.’
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In 2005, the astronauts aboard the space shuttle ‘Discovery’ had instant noodles from special containers made by him.
By 2007, chicken ramen was selling at 60 Yen a packet in Japan which was almost one third of the cost of a serving of cheap noodles in any Japanese restaurant. Awards & Achievements
The introduction of cup noodles in 1971 was probably his most important achievement. The noodles can be eaten easily by opening the lid of the Styrofoam container designed by him, pouring warm water into it and waiting till they were soft. He made a fortune by selling these simple yet convenient instant noodles at a low price all over the world.
Momofuku Ando received the ‘Medal of Honor’ with a Blue Ribbon in 1977 for his service to the poor and war-torn people of the nation.
He received the ‘Order of the Sacred Treasure, Second Class, with Gold and Silver Stars’ from the Japanese government in 1982.
The ‘Medal of Honor’ with a Purple Ribbon was awarded to him in 1983.
He was made the Director of Science and Technology Agency in Japan and received ‘Distinguished Service Award’ in 1992.
The Japanese government awarded the ‘Order of the Rising Sun, Second Class, with Gold and Silver stars’ to him in 2002.
Personal Life & Legacy
Momofuku Ando died of heart failure in Ikeda, Osaka Prefecture, on 5th January, 2007 at the age of 96 leaving behind wife Masako, a daughter and two sons.
The ‘Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum’ in Japan is named after him.