Instant noodles praised by makers as disaster item

by Ko Hirano

Kyodo

Noodle makers around the world underscored at a meeting in Tianjin, China, recently the strategic importance their products play during natural disasters and other crises, including the ongoing nuclear crisis in Japan.

Not only are instant noodles cheap, tasty, storable and easy to cook, but they also play a pivotal role in addressing food issues, especially when the world population is forecast to reach 10 billion by 2050, up from over 7 billion last year, the participants agreed at the three-day World Instant Noodles Summit through Monday.

“Following last year’s nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture, Japanese consumers began to worry about the radiation contamination of their food,” said Koki Ando, president and chief executive officer of Nissin Foods Holdings Co. “Despite such concern, instant noodles are currently recognized as one of the safest foods in Japan.”

The biennial event, the eighth of its kind, brought together about 700 people, including representatives from 89 instant noodle manufacturers and related firms from 16 countries. It was the first such gathering since the March 11, 2011, calamity hit the Tohoku region.

On Sunday, summit participants adopted a declaration calling for boosting industrywide contributions to disaster-hit areas through increased noodle supply.

The summit decided to provide $500,000 to the disaster relief fund run by the World Instant Noodles Association, which has fallen to $50,000 since providing noodles to quake-hit Japan and flood-hit Thailand.

“To the victims of disaster, regardless of nationality, a hot bowl of instant noodles affords a sense of relief,” the declaration said. “This is what sets instant noodles apart from other emergency foods that just fill the stomach. It is the unique value of instant noodles.”

Ando said Nissin will contribute $100,000 to the fund. Ando, who serves as chairman of the Japan-based association, said Japanese noodle makers have successfully dealt with concerns about hazardous additives and overall food safety through experience and technological advances. “Through such efforts, we have been able to establish a good brand image and win the trust of consumers,” he said. “Though some problems still exist, we have addressed most of the problems.”

Sticking with the positive elements of Japanese instant noodles, products such as Cup Noodle, Sapporo Ichiban and UFO fried noodle vied for attention at booths on the sidelines of the Tianjin gathering.

“Japanese noodles excel their foreign rivals by taste, toppings and brand image,” Nunuk Nuraini, flavor development manager of PT Indofood CBP Sukses Makmur Tbk, a Jakarta-based food company, said at Japan booths that displayed products by instant noodle makers including Nissin, Sanyo Foods Co., Myojo Foods Co. and Acecook Co.