April 3, 2016

Meet The Manufacturer: Interview With Nissin Japan

Interview with Nissin Japan * Product Samples From Nissin Japan (1) * Product Samples From Nissin Japan (2) * Nissin Cup NoodleNissin Cup Noodle Milk Chikin RamenNissin Cup Noodle Light RatatouilleNissin Raoh TonkotsuNissin Gyoretsu-no-Dekiru-Mise-no- Ramen (Shrimp Tantanmen)Nissin Cup Noodle Big Cheese Mexican ChiliNissin Cup Noodle Pasta Style Tarako SpaghettiNissin Cup Noodle Vegeta Buta-kyabetsu TonkotsuNissin Men Shokunin ShoyuNissin Curry UdonNissin Chikin Ramen DonburiNissin BIG Cup Noodle Seafood Clam ChowderNissin Cup Noodles Tom Yum Goong * Nissin Raoh Rich Miso Flavor * Nissin Donbei Dashi Shoyu Yakiudon

I gotta say, I’m absolutely thrilled to be able to bring you this Meet The Manufacturer. The first instant noodles I tried as a child were Nissin Roasted Ramen, a product for the US market manufactured by Nissin USA. When it eventually left the market, my family brought me to Seattle and after speaking with the people at Uwajimaya, a large Japanese supermarket there, found that Roasted Ramen was almost identical to Nissin Chikin Ramen. I also saw all sorts of different varieties available and I was immediately fascinated. Today, I am on the cusp of my 2,000th review. To be able to do a series on Nissin Japan’s products is just fantastic and really looking forward to sharing this with everyone. To get started, I conducted an inter view with Mr. Daisuke Okabayashi, Assistant Manager of the Corporate COmmunications Division at Nissin Foods Holdings in Tokyo, Japan.

THE RAMEN RATER> Thank you very much for the opportunity to conduct this interview. Can you give my readers some background on Nissin Japan; what is the history of the company?

NISSIN> Nissin Foods Group is the pioneer of instant noodles. Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Food Products, invented the world’s first instant noodles, “Chicken Ramen” in 1958. While instant noodles have their roots in Japan, today instant noodles have grown to the “Global Diet” consumed over 100 billion servings per year throughout the world. Following the invention of instant noodles, Mr. Ando also developed the world’s first cup-type instant noodles, “Cup Noodles” in Japan in 1971. And now, Cup Noodles are sold in over 80 countries ­in Asia as well as in Americas, Europe, and other continents around the world.

TRR> Why the name Nissin – what does it mean and how was the name arrived at?

NISSIN> “Nissin” means “creating fine flavors daily with pure mind,” which was made in accordance with Momofuku Ando’s motto.

TRR> For my readers who might not be familiar, can you introduce them to some of your product lines?

NISSIN> We have some well-known brands in Japan including, Chicken Ramen, the world first instant noodles, Cup Noodles, the world first cup-type instant noodles, Nissin-No-Donbei, Japanese udon-type noodles, Nissin Yakisoba U.F.O., fried noodles, and so on.

TRR> Nissin Raoh was introduced as being ‘restaurant quality,’ with a marketing campaign involving opening small restaurants serving the ramen. Can you tell a little about how that came to be and what it’s effect was on public reception?

NISSIN> As Raoh is popular for its fresh-like noodle texture, Nissin opened a noodle restaurant called “Raoh Fukuromen-ya” in Shibuya station in Tokyo in 2012, serving Raoh noodles as its menu. Thankfully is very popular until now.

TRR> Nissin’s first product, Chikin Ramen was invented by Mr. Ando. He also invented the cup noodle and space ram – noodles for astronauts. while these are well known successes by Mr. Ando, are there some not-so-well-known inventions we might learn about?

NISSIN> One of the most innovative but unknown products invented by Momofuku is “Cup Rice.” There were pilaf, dried curry, etc., which can be cooked instantly and be read-to-eat by just pouring boiling water. Those products went on sale in 1975, but didn’t make a big hit. However, the production technologies used in Cup Rice are now taken over by some of our latest brands, such as “Cup Noodles Gohan” or “Curry Meshi,” microwave-cooking instant rice products.

TRR> On the topic of Chikin Ramen, is there a story behind Hiyoko-Chan, the lovable little character adorning the packages?

NISSIN> Hiyok-chan, the chick mascot character of Chicken Ramen, has 12 friends. He is full of curiosity, has a strong sense of justice, and also always keeps on good terms with human children.

TRR> On the Chikin Ramen varieties – they say WFP next to a picture of a smiling coffee mug – what does it mean?

NISSIN> The red-cup character is the mascot of WFP red cup campaign in Japan.
Red cup is the cups with which the UN WFP is donating and distributing foods to the needy children in the poor area in the world.
You can see details of the red cup campaign by UN WFP on the link as follows;

TRR> How about the character on Nissin’s Demae Ramen – how did he come to be and what is his name and cultural significance in Japan?

NISSIN> The mascot character of Demae Itcho ramen is called Demae-boya (boy). His family consists of 5 people, father, mother, grandmother, Demae-boya, and younger sister.

TRR> Mr. Ando also founded WINA, the World Instant Noodle Association, which was how this Meet the Manufacturer came about. What was the idea behind an instant noodle association and what did Mr. Ando hope to accomplish?

NISSIN> Promoted by Momofuku Ando, the inventor of instant noodles, and agreed to by a number of instant noodle manufacturers around the world, IRMA (International Ramen Manufacturers Association) was launched in 1997. The purposes of the Association are to improve the quality of instant noodles and increase its consumption through the mutual exchange of information by manufacturers around the world, to discuss environmental and technical issues, and to promote mutual friendship, thereby enhancing diets worldwide and contributing to the development of the industry.
IRMA changed its name in February 2007 to “WINA (World Instant Noodles Association)” to comply with the category name “Instant Noodles,” certified as the authorized name under CODEX International Standards for Instant Noodles, which was adopted in the previous year.

TRR> What, in your opinion, is the biggest innovation regarding the instant noodle since its’ inception?

NISSIN> In my opinion, the invention of Cup Noodles was the biggest innovation in the instant noodle history. The functions of the cup are not only packaging noodles, but also a cooker, and a cup for eating. What is most innovative is that there are three functions in one cup. And I think this invention triggered to turn local Japanese instant ramen into the truly global food, instant noodles.

TRR> On the subject of Cup Noodles – I sometimes will see products referring to themselves as Cup Noodle (singular) and Cup Noodles (plural). Why is this?

NISSIN> When Nissin Food Products Company (Japan) originally launched Cup Noodle in 1971 in Japan, we named the product, “Cup Noodle,” singular noun. After few years, when we made inroads into US market, we decided to use “Cup Noodles,” plural noun, cause “Cup Noodle” is not grammatically correct in English (we don’t eat one single noodle in a cup). Now we are still using “Cup Noodle” in the Japanese market, and “Cup Noodles” in other countries, cause each customers are familiar with each brand name.

TRR> I should let everyone know – there is an amazing place my family hopes to visit in Yokohama – The Cup Noodles Museum. Here, you can see the history of the Cup Noodle – even make your own personalized Cup Noodle (honestly a dream of mine for years). Check it out at http://www.cupnoodles-museum.jp/english/index.html

TRR> Is Nissin Japan involved in contributing to relief of natural disasters and humanitarian work?

NISSIN> Yes, we did a lot of CSR activities by donating instant noodles as the relief food to the disaster-hit area. For example, in the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in 1995, we delivered one million servings, and in the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011, we did two million servings to the evacuation shelters.

TRR> Nissin’s iconic Cup Noodle line has had such unique varieties as ‘Red Shock,’ ‘GooTa Demi-Hamburg-Men’ and more. How do you decide whether to or not to roll out a new product, especially when going for something very different?

NISSIN> First, marketing team and R&D team come up with the idea of new products, set the marketing plan, and then develop the product. Then the final approval for selling the product in the market should be met at the new product meeting where CEO joins.

TRR> Out of curiosity, how many unique varieties of Cup Noodle have come on to the market since its inception in 1971?

NISSIN> I can’t tell you the actual number of Cup Noodles which have come on to the market since inception in 1971, because they are too many to count. I can say, more than 100 items have already marketed even only in the regular-sized Cup Noodles category in Japan.

TRR> Mr. Ando’s son Koki is now the head of Nissin Japan. I wonder – what is his favorite instant noodle variety and does he take part in the development of new products?

NISSIN> Mr. Koki Ando, our CEO, is still involved in developing almost all the new items. So I am sure that he loves everything of Nissin’s products. But I once heard that his favorite one was our original Chicken Ramen.

TRR> What kind of impact has Nissin Japan’s products had culturally and socially in Japan as well as around the world?

NISSIN> Since instant noodles can be prepared in only about 3 minutes, it contributed to having people save their time, and thus created some extra time for people to do something instead. In that sense, Nissin Foods, as the pioneer of instant noodles, have made a strong impact on not only the culinary habit but the people’s lifestyle.

TRR> People have become wary of the instant noodle’s sodium content in past years – how can one make the instant noodle part of a healthy diet?

NISSIN> In Japan, we display on the package the amount of salt contained in each product separately for noodles and toppings, and for seasoning (soup). So if some people who are conscious about the salt intake, they can reduce the excessive amount of salt by leaving the soup in the cup instead of drinking all of them.
And I also recommend people take foods well-balanced by combining instant noodles with some vegetables.

TRR> A big part of Nissin Japan’s marketing is through television commercials, often showcasing musical and acting talents from around the world. Can you speak on how a talent is sought out and how these commercials have changed over the years?

NISSIN> TV commercials are always created very carefully to covey the brand concept to the consumers. And, of course, the talents were also carefully decided. They are the brand ambassadors delivering the message.

TRR> In a world with a population that is growing exponentially, what role do you see the instant noodle having?

NISSIN> Since instant noodles have a lot of distinctive features such as, tasty, preservable, easy to prepare, affordable, and safe, and the global population is still expanding, we think instant noodles will become more important and indispensable in people’s diet.

TRR> Where in Japan are you located? What is life like there?

NISSIN> Our headquarters are located in Tokyo, so I live in the outskirts of Tokyo. Living in Tokyo is very convenient but it is very hard to commute by the packed train.

TRR> How many instant noodles does Nissin Japan produce every year?

NISSIN> Only by Nissin Food Products in Japan, more than 350 new items are launched every year.

TRR> We are two years from the 60th anniversary of the first instant noodle product on the market. What is the future of this foodstuff?

NISSIN> Since instant noodles have a lot of distinctive features such as, tasty, preservable, easy to prepare, affordable, and safe, we expect that the total demand of instant noodles will increase steadily in the future.

TRR> I would like to say thank you very much for the opportunity to do this interview – to be honest, I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time, and the occasion of my 2,000th review seems about perfect. My last question: my life has been forever changed by Momofuku Ando’s invention of the instant noodle and introduction to the marketplace. Do you have any stories of others who have had their lives changed by the instant noodle?

NISSIN> I am sorry but I don’t know anybody whose life has been completely changed by instant noodles (other than you), but I know there are some instant noodles aficionados in the world like you. We will continue to responsible for providing many noodle fans with tasty and good-quality instant noodle products.

THE RAMEN RATER> Thank you very much for this opportunity to learn more about Nissin Japan, for myself and my readers!

I want to thank Mr. Okabayashi from Nissin Japan for granting this interview and sending samples as well as so much helkp with translation and other info! I also want to thank Ms. Yuko Shozawa from WINA (World Instant Noodles Association) for connecting me with Nissin Japan. With that, thus begins the Nissin Japan Meet The Manufacturer!

Products cooked according to package instructions. Product reviews done prior to adding any additional ingredients.

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