Here’s the interview that I did with Nongshim America. This was a lot of fun!
THE RAMEN RATER> Thank you for the opportunity to do this interview! For those not familiar, can you tell us about some of your most popular instant noodle products?
NONGSHIM AMERICA> Shin Ramyun is by far the most iconic and popular of all noodles. Recently we released a new product known as Shin Ramyun Black (in short – Shin Black). This product has been developed to meet the taste of modern people by adding a lot of garlic and shiitake mushrooms into a new beef broth. Chapagetti is another popular brand. It is made with black soybean paste known as “Chajang” and is amazingly delicious. Negouri – Anyone who enjoys thick, rich, noodles, will appreciate this product. It is a perfect combination of spicy seafood soup with plump noodles. We also have a relatively new bowl product line released early last year and have several different flavors. Some of the flavors are: Hot & Spicy, Spicy Kimchi, Shin Bowl, Savory Chicken, and Savory Shrimp just to name a few. This line offers a microwaveable bowl, 0g Trans Fats, and has no MSG added. The Nongshim product lines are large and have several types of noodles to suit any palate; please visit our product section of our website to understand all of the products we offer. http://www.nongshimusa.com.
TRR> Do you produce and sell products other than instant noodles?
NSA> Here at Nongshim America we produce noodle products only; however, Nongshim worldwide has several divisions. Most people are aware of the noodle division and a majority of our North American supplied noodles are produced right here in Rancho Cucamonga California. We also have a snack division (Nongshim Korea) that imports to North America great snacks such as: Honey twists, Banana kicks, Shrimp Crackers and Cho Chung u-gua (which is a honey coated snack). There is a beverage division that works with other well-known U.S. major brands to produce drinks for the Korean and European market (also Nongshim Korea).
TRR> How did Nongshim first come into existence? Can you tell us a little about your history?
NSA> Nongshim began in South Korea in 1965 and was known as the Lotte Industrial Company. Several years later, the brand name was changed to Nongshim. In 1971, the development of the shrimp cracker products took place. Then in 1986, Shin Ramyun was developed; prior to this, noodles were plain and the soup base was an afterthought. Shin Ramyun’s spicy-chewy noodles changed everything. Not long after the development of Shin Ramyun, Nongshim topped the Korean noodle market in terms of market share and is commonly referred to as “The Food of the Citizen”. Today, Nongshim has seven (7) manufacturing facilities in South Korea, three (3) in China, and one (1) in North America (Nongshim America). Also, the Nongshim Parent HQ office is in Seoul, Korea. What’s more, Nongshim supplies 80 different country’s with product.
TRR> We are here today in Rancho Cucamonga at Nongshim USA. When did it become evident that a plant be built in the United States?
NSA> A West Coast office was established in 1984 and by 1994 an official Nongshim America Sales team began in the Southern California area. In 2002, it was clear that a U.S. based manufacturing facility was needed and in 2005, Nongshim America began producing its award winning noodles.
TRR> Why did you pick southern California as a base of operations in the USA?
NSA> Southern California appears to be the central location for the Asian culture as well as the true meaning of America’s melting pot. It has the greatest cultural diversity within a short traveling distance compared to any other location in the U.S. This enables us to field test our products and get instant results on how it may perform. Also, the Southern California ports allow for relatively easy access for raw materials that enter the U.S. Additionally, local supporting business industries and the Interstate Highway systems which create a great overall Hub location for any company to thrive.
Additionally, we are currently searching for a second North America facility located on the Eastern region of the country. We have contacted a few states and we are definitely interested in talking to regional Economic Development Organizations regarding their area. Our goal is to begin production within the next few years.
TRR> What was Nongshim’s first product? How did it do?
NSA> Our first Nongshim America product produced was Shin Ramyun. It represents 29% of our total annual product produced.
TRR> What does the name Nongshim mean?
NSA> The Nongshim seed was created to symbolize everything that we as a company believe in, with the creed that “you reap what you sow”. You’ll find this incorporated into every aspect of our business – we see the seed as a source of life that will bud and ultimately bear fruit with commitment and care. We depicted this seed in red to stand for the blessings and richness of nature. Nong Shim translates into “farmer’s heart”.
TRR> I would imagine that the product most synonymous with the name Nongshim is Shin Ramyun. Can you tell us a little about it?
NSA> Brandstock listed Shin Ramyun as the number one (#1) of all food brands and listed it as number eight (#8) of all brands in Korea. It is the top selling product for Nongshim with 21 Billion Units sold worldwide since its development. Fun Fact: 21 Billion Units will go around the earth 96 times. The symbol that you see on the package is the Chinese character which means spicy and this also happens to be the last name of a former Nongshim President. The package design itself has seen relatively little change since its humble beginning. Shin Ramyun represents the instant noodle industry and has a perfect blend of spices for a traditional Korean taste. This Spicy Soup may make you sweat; however, the savory beef broth and fresh vegetables are not overpowered by the spices. The fresh ingredients in this Spicy Soup achieve perfect harmony and will satisfy and fulfill your appetite.
TRR> How does the process in which you make your noodles differ from other brands?
NSA> The greatest difference is the recipe. Our blend of ingredients has natural balance that leaves the consumer wanting more. Furthermore, Nongshim uses quality raw materials in all of our products. Last but not least, Nongshim has its own Engineering division which designs and produces its own noodle equipment. This ensures consistency from plant to plant.
TRR> How do the noodles in your packages, cups and big bowls differ?
NSA> Most notably, the recipe is different due to the different cooking types and times of each one of these products.
TRR> You make a broad range of flavors of instant noodles – are there any new varieties that will be released in the United States and abroad soon?
NSA> Great question; businesses need to make additions to its product line to capture additional consumers and to adapt to the ever changing environment when it comes to the adult palate and this is why we have two new products that are coming out. The first is a Shin Black Cup and the second is an Udon Garlic Teriyaki. Both of these products are excellent tasting. Our new Shin Black has been formatted into a cup and is ready to go anywhere you go; just add hot water. The Garlic-Teriyaki Udon is just as it sounds and has a thick sauce that is extremely delicious.
TRR> I often am asked if I am worried about sodium levels in all the different instant noodles from around the world I review. How would you recommend people balance their enjoyment of instant noodles and keeping them as part of a healthy meal?
NSA> As with any meal, a balanced approach is always best. The addition of vegetables and a protein increase the health benefits. Another way is to add kimchi. Kimchi is loaded with vitamins A, B, and C, and it also has lactobacilli (good bacteria) which help with digestion.
TRR> Is Nongshim involved in the local community around you?
NSA> Nongshim has a great program known as the Great Work Place (GWP) in place. The program has four components. The first is our team building program which promotes team building and supports local businesses. The second is our product donations program which donates product to places such as the L.A Mission. The third program is our annual toy drive. Each year we collect new toys from our employees as well as some funds from the company to purchase additional toys or items of need for an organization. In the past few years we have donated to the Loma Linda’s Children’s Hospital, The Leroy Haynes Center and last year’s donation went to Casa Colin’s Children’s Service Center. In addition to all of this we are now working on an additional program that will allow employees time to perform community service work at selected events. We also provide tours of our facility to Southern California schools and local community groups. This allows them the opportunity to learn about our great philosophy and see how noodles are produced. In fact, we recently won an award for our tours from the Inland Empire Manufacturing Council. All of your readers can stay informed about product and community involvement by going to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nongshimusa.
TRR> How many packs and bowls of instant noodles do you make every year worldwide?
NSA> Here in Rancho Cucamonga, CA. we produce approximately 200 million units per year. Nongshim worldwide produces approximately 3.3 billion units per year.
TRR> Can you tell my readers about any new and exciting products to look for in the near future?
NSA> Yes we have some exiting products coming soon. However, we are still in the development stage and we shouldn’t talk about them just yet. I’m sure that The Ramen Rater will be one of the first to receive a case(s) when they are ready to be released.
TRR> Finally, when you personally enjoy some of your instant noodles, which do you, enjoy much and what (if anything) do you add to them?
NSA> I love this question; for every person you ask here at Nongshim you receive different answer and they are all great recipes. The Nongshim product line is so versatile; it appears to have endless-great tasting possibilities. I typically stick to Shin Ramyun and rotate between tastes. Recently I’ve been adding chorizo and an egg; YUM! You can’t go wrong with that combination. Other times I like to add some cabbage and little chicken or I change it up by adding kimchi.
Well that’s all, folks! A really fun interview with great information from Nongshim America! I’d like to thank everyone at Nongshim again for the kindness and warmth they have extended to my wife and I.