Instant ramen has a $42 billion market, with 100 billion servings sold each year. It was known to have fed a lot of people when poverty became rampant after World War II. Most staple noodles contain just the right flavor and amount that satisfy consumers at a cheap price—but it isn’t necessarily the healthiest option.
Is it possible to create a nutrient-dense noodle that has a long shelf life and an affordable price?
Here’s a US-based company that dared: Immi. The noodles are made from 31 grams of plant proteins from pumpkin seeds and fava beans, compared to traditional ramen that only has six grams and is loaded with palm oil, sodium and MSG. Immi’s ramen also has only nine grams of net carbs, 850 mg of sodium and seasoning made from natural spices.
However, since plant proteins and the manufacturing process have a hefty cost, this “healthy” ramen, at $6.25 per serving, costs 10 times more than the usual instant ramen. Their new take on ramen includes flavors such as black garlic “chicken,” tom yum “shrimp” and spicy “beef.”
Founders Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthsiriphan both have roots in the food industry despite having met in a gaming startup. Lee’s parents are farmers while Chanthisiriphan’s family owns a Thai restaurant and Asian grocery store. They both know how unhealthy and processed most Asian food staples are, particularly instant ramen.
So they took it upon themselves to reinvent the convenient noodle favorite. It was however anything but easy.
Three companies make up most of the world’s instant noodles production—Japan’s Nissin and Toyo Suisan, and South Korea’s Lotte Foods. Lee and Chanthisiriphan tried to reach some of these factories to upscale the production of their plant-based ramen but were rejected because the companies didn’t think there was a market for “healthy” ramen that is way more expensive than instant ramen.
Lee and Chanthisiriphan finally found a manufacturing facility in the US and are currently working on lowering the price of their product without compromising on nutrition. Immi is shipping their ramen across the US and is planning to expand internationally.