Ramen IPPUDO Challenging a 7.4-Billion-Men Market
Japan's Ramen is rapidly invading overseas markets with a total of 97 firms operating in various parts of the world. The Japan External Trade Organization, JETRO, reports ramen houses zoomed in number in six folds in the recent six years. Leading the drive is a major ramen chain IPPUDO from Kyushu operated by Chikaranomoto Co. - literally the Source of Energy Co. The corporation was listed in the Tokyo Security Exchange this March.
IPPUDO was inaugurated 32 years ago in 1985 in Fukuoka, Kyushu. President Toshiyuki Kiyomiya quotes the founder Shigemi Kawahara as recalling an incident that had motivated him to coordinate the conventional pork bone soup to meet the taste of a certain lady customer who detested "a porky smell". Kawahara tried, errored and came up in the end with a soup almost free of that smell, which eventually attracted a throng of smell-sensitive female customers.
A breakthrough came in 1994 when IPPUDO opened a store at the New Yokohama Ramen Museum in Yokohama. IPPUDO garnered an explosive popularity not in Yokohama alone but suddenly all across the country - over 80 branch shops from Hokkaido to Kyushu.
IPPUDO, however, had its own setbacks - particularly in Korea where they eventually wrapped up the business last month. The Koreans, they have learned, like it hot and less salty. Kiyomiya regrets not to have started off at Pusan where Japanese foods are more readily accepted.
That aside, IPPUDO is going strong in China with a well-localized model to meet the Chinese taste. They have halved the oil content on a basis of a feasible test that had indicated that the Chinese customers no longer favor oil-rich soup for reasons of health upkeep.
In Indonesia and Malaysia, they replace pork with chicken for preparing soup to cater for Islamic traditions.
President Kiyomiya is looking for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020 as a trigger for boosting their operation to 300 shops at home and abroad by 2025. "Japan's Ramen for 7.4 Billion People of the World", targets IPPUDO. (Nathan Shiga)