Girly noodles: Is Japan witnessing start of a female-oriented instant noodle revolution?
Instant noodles – also known as cup noodles and what I lived off during most of his university days – have been a food staple for the busy, cost-conscious and kitchenphobic since their inception back in 1958. Peel back the lid, pour in some hot water, wait a few minutes and you have a hot, filling, if not especially nutritious meal for about the cost of a cup of coffee.
But with the handy meals being something that many associate with students and lonely bachelors, many women shy away from instant noodles, regardless of the fact that they’re just as pressed for time as their male coworkers. And all stigmas and stereotypes aside, few women in their 20s and 30s would be especially happy about replacing their nutritious mid-day meal with a plastic cup of rehydrated noodles swimming in a salty broth.
Enter the girly noodle.
Under the chirpy brand name Hanauta, or “humming”, Tokyo-based food manufacturer Toyo Suisan is bringing its brand of female-oriented noodles to the market from March 4, with limited numbers available beforehand at Tokyu Hands department stores across Japan. Developed with the mission statement “a cup noodle for women that helps lift spirits” in mind, Hanauta noodle cups feature floral print designs as well as cups whose bases taper inwards making them more comfortable and hold while appearing less bulky.
A spokesperson from Toyos Suisan went on record earlier this week to discuss the company’s hopes for the product, saying: “The biggest consumers of instant noodles are men aged 20-40, so it’s true that few women have the opportunity to eat them. We decided to produce a brand of noodles that targets women specifically.”
Hoping to shake off the negative image surrounding cup noodles and to help women avoid experiencing “feelings of guilt” for dining on what many still consider to be little more than junk food, the company set out to produce instant noodles that not only help maintain a healthier nutritional balance than previous offerings but are also more aesthetically pleasing. Available in a choice of two flavors, Chamomile Salt broth and Rosehip Tantanmen (Szechuan style noodles), the noodles are quite unlike anything else on the market, and – with names likely sounding more like types of soap than flavors of snack to most men – will definitely appeal to those seeking a more elegant type of fast food.
It’s not just Toyo Suisan that’s hoping to tap into the female noodle market; Myojo Foods is also hoping that their brand of Quick One (or Q-1) noodles will appeal to the fairer sex when they arrive in stores on Feb 18. As well as focusing on taste by offering flavours more akin to Western-style soups than Japanese noodles, Myojo’s chicken consomme, bouillabaisse, and fragrant tomato and onion noodles can be whipped up in just one minute flat, accommodating those in need of food fast without the fast-food taste.
In a report by Nikkei Trendy, data from 2012 suggests that Japan is now home to as many as 19 million families where both parents are in full-time employment; the highest on record. While restaurants and cafeterias across the country used to be packed with mostly male patrons during weekday lunchtimes, more and more female professionals are beginning to join their ranks, grabbing a quick bite to eat before heading back to the office. During busier times and when strolling to a nearby restaurant simply isn’t an option, many male office workers would simply grab a cup noodle and slurp it down at their desk.
But with the amount of salt and additives in standard instant noodle cups often worryingly high — not to mention the slightly uncouth image that surrounds them — many women prefer not to partake in such time-saving snacks. With this in mind, it could well be that both Toyo Suisan and Myojo are on to a winner here with their lighter, healthier, altogether less “junky” cup noodle brands made especially for women.
Whether these new creations will help their respective companies come close to dethroning Nissin, the original creator of the instant noodle and holder of a whopping 60 percent of the Japanese instant noodle market, however, remains to be seen. Either way, a slightly healthier, altogether less gloomy-looking brand of noodles entering the market can hardly be a bad thing.
Source: Zasshi News
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