OSAKA (Kyodo) Nisshin Food Products Co. celebrated Monday the 50th anniversary of the market debut of Chicken Ramen, the world’s first instant noodles.

The company began a three-day event in Osaka, the birthplace of instant noodles, during which it will show the public the production process of the Chicken Ramen that debuted Aug. 25, 1958.

Since the late Nisshin founder Momofuku Ando created instant noodles 50 years ago, the market has seen steady growth and ever-expanding product lineups.

In 1971, the company introduced Cup Noodle, featuring instant ramen in a waterproof plastic foam container that only has to be filled with hot water. In 2005, Nisshin debuted vacuum-packed instant noodles specially designed for astronaut Soichi Noguchi to eat during a mission aboard the U.S. space shuttle Discovery.

Around the 1970s, as growth in the domestic market slowed, Japanese manufacturers turned their attention overseas, mainly elsewhere in Asia. Around that time, foreign manufacturers also started making instant noodles.

In the past 50 years, the industry has grown huge, with more than 20 instant noodle manufacturers currently operating in Japan.

“We have no idea how many instant noodle makers there are in the world,” a Nisshin official said.

Global consumption of instant noodles has increased in recent years, and some industry insiders even estimate it will more than double to 200 billion units by 2018.

The figure stood at about 97.9 billion units last year, which means each person on Earth consumed instant noodles 15 times a year.

By country, the largest consumer is China, followed by Indonesia, Japan and the United States. The market is growing in Russia, South America as well as in Europe.

Instant noodles have also gained status as emergency food aid for disaster-hit areas worldwide because they are easy to prepare and have a long shelf life.

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