Monday, January 15, 2007

"What are you doing now?"

Japanese noodle king, dead at 96:
Momofuku Ando, who has died at the age of 96, was middle-aged when he invented instant chicken noodles, a Japanese concoction that has arguably worked its way into more stomachs worldwide than sushi, tempura and tofu combined.

His invention catapulted his company, Nissin Food products, from obscure Osaka noodlemaker to global leader with products sold in 70 countries. By the time of his death from heart failure, Nissin was reporting operating profits of Y32bn ($307m).

Ando's invention of Cup Noodles in 1972, at the age of 61, helped spark the popularity of instant noodles overseas. His inspiration had come from watching Americans eat noodles with a fork -- not chopsticks -- after breaking them in half, placing them in a cup and dousing them with hot water. Ando realised that a Styrofoam pot that narrowed at the bottom was the best vessel for holding the noodles and keeping them warm. Consuming them was as easy as opening the lid, adding water and waiting a bit. The simplicity, efficiency and low price of Cup Noodles transformed Nissin's fortunes.

Momofuku Anso was born in Taiwan in 1910, when the island was under Japanese rule. He moved to Kyoto at the age of 23 to study economics at Ritsumeikan University. After a series of failed business ventures, he founded his company in 1948.

A small, wiry man with an affinity for oversized sunglasses, Ando was a passionate golfer who apparently enjoyed a bowl of instant noodles nearly every day.

The book Momofuku Ando Speaks, which contains 155 of his quotations, is illuminating. While at Nissin, he would indiscriminately shout out, "What are you doing now?" to various employees. "Calling out to them in this way shocks them into re-evaluating what they're doing," he explained.

He is survived by his wife, Masako, two sons and a daughter.
Mariko Sanchanta, "Prime mover of the pot noodle," Financial Times 16 (Jan. 15, 2007).

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