Instant ramen is a pantry staple through hard times

The world leans on instant ramen through pandemics and inflation

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Nissin's Cup Noodle
Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images (Getty Images)

The covid-19 pandemic saw a surge in shelf-stable foods, as people stocked their pantries. Nissin, the Japanese company behind Cup Noodles, or what is called the “original instant ramen, saw a 9% increase in revenue in 2022 compared to 2019—the company’s global revenue for food products totaled $1.59 billion in 2022 and $1.46 billion in 2019. Nissin reported a 41% increase in global sales in the fourth quarter of 2022 versus the same time a year ago.

Quick-prep meals, like instant ramen, that can be made in a few minutes, are finding more consumers among the working class who may be strapped for time or who need to find more affordable food options.


Demand for instant ramen isn’t letting up

Quarterly revenue projections for Nissin’s noodles shows a 5.57% increase in the third quarter of 2023 compared to that of 2022. The continuing upward trend is giving Nissin a firm hold on the instant ramen market, particularly in the US. The company saw a 32% year-over-year jump in overall growth in the US in 2022. Nissin recently also expanded its capacity for distribution in the US by 15%. While instant ramen has long been a staple among college students, inflation has led more Americans to join food stamp programs and cut costs where they can.


Nissin attributed the rise in sales to the popularity of its premium and spicy offerings, such as Cup Noodles Hot & Spicy and Stir Fry flavors. The company launched a new flavor of chili tomato in March 2022 and the Cup Noodle Karamen, which features a broth with roasted chili peppers. Nissin also removed MSG and reduced sodium levels in its Top Ramen products several years ago, though it may need to continue to diversify in order to compete with newer brands that claim to be healthier.