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Korean cup noodle attacks the taste of the world

Posted June. 28, 2013 08:00,   


The first cup noodle was introduced in 1971 by the Japanese company Nisshin, which also developed instant ramen for the first time in the world in 1958. The company’s founder Momofuku Ando aimed at the second revolution in the food industry with his new invention. Despite the company’s three great breakthroughs, such a right thickness of noodle to be cooked with hot water, quick-frozen solids that recover original color and size and the container developed inspired by disposable cups, the product failed to attract many people. In the meantime, however, cup noodles began to sell like hotcakes as policemen, firefighters and nurses eat the product during night shift. With more than 20 billion units being sold over 40 some years, Nisshin’s cup noodle is the world’s oldest and most sold cup noodle. Nisshin still sells the cup noodle worth 690 billion won (602 million dollars) each year.

Korean food companies were fast followers. In 1972 Korea’s first cup noodle, Samyang Cup Ramen, was introduced but met with a cold response from the market. At that time, cup noodle was criticized for not getting along with Korean table manner while being too expensive for most people. Nongshim tried to solve these problems in 1982. Nongshim developed a container looking like a Korean soup bowl and a spicy beef soup taste that caters to Koreans. The product is named “Yukgaejang Sabalmyeon” and has been sold more than 4.2 billion units over three decades. The product still sells worth 70 billion won (61 million dollars) a year.

Korean cup noodle made a leap forward in 1988 during the Summer Olympics in Seoul. US NBC introduced Nongshim’s Yukgaejang Sabalmyeon as fast food like U.S. hamburgers. Paldo’s “Doshirak” was a cup noodle popular in Russia. Russian individual sellers who came to Korea through Busan Port introduced the cup noodle to Russians, and Dosirak become the most sold cup noodle in Russia with annual sales of 270 million units worth 200 billion won (174 million dollars), defeating Japanese products.

Korean cup noodles can be found at golf resorts in Brazil or the 3,454-meter summit of the Jungfrau in Switzerland. Sales competition above the cloud is also fierce. America’s biggest airliner American Airline recently decided to serve their passengers with Nongshim’s cup noodle. Nongshim has already been provided cup noodle to airliners including Air France and British Airways. Korean cup noodle continues its challenge to advance into the world market by changing containers, tastes and the type of noodle, such as Japanese soba. In the business world, many younger brothers excel older brothers.

Editorial writer Park Yong (parky@donga.com)