Kappumen (cup-packaged instant noodles) (カップ麺)

Kappumen indicates the item consisting of instant noodles such as dried noodles and fresh noodles put into a container usable as tableware and the attached ingredients.

Summary

It is characterized by being cookable only by pouring hot water and eatable anywhere if hot water is available. That is, the cup serves not only as cookware, but also as tableware (with a role of the package on display).
The official name on the code is 'Sokuseki Kappumen.'
Also those whose contents are instant ramen noodles are called Kappu-ramen, soba (noodles made from buckwheat) and udon (noodles made of wheat flour) are called Kappu-soba and Kappu-udon respectively, and yakisoba (fried noodles) are called Kappu-yakisoba (instant yakisoba).

Some of the products sold nationwide in Japan are differently seasoned per region in eastern Japan and western Japan (such as Donbe, Maruchan's Akai Kitsune [instant udon bowl] and Midori no Tanuki [Green Raccoon] [instant soba bowl]). Moreover, there are some products sold only locally.
There are also Kappumen made by ramen shops, such as 'Aoba.'

Emergency food

In the emergency situation that the lifeline such as electricity, gas, and water is affected, it is very often difficult to secure hot water and Kappumen is useless in such a case. The use of fire has a greater risk to cause a gas explosion immediately after the disaster and even obtaining hot water fully in a container is difficult because fire is not usable at a refuge in groups.

Even after the midterm, at least cooking is easier than instant ramen noodles, but other equipment such as water, fuel, and a simple cooking range (a portable gas burner and others) necessary for cooking are required.

History

Cup Noodle' is the first product put on the market by NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS on September 18, 1971 (except the test marketing done immediately before). The idea originated from a trip to Europe and America for selling instant ramen noodles, in which someone cracked Chicken Ramen into a paper cup because ramen bowls were not available, poured hot water, and tried out with a fork. It has attracted widespread popularity as a staple food, but initially it was developed in perspective of spreading as a between-meal snack. Less quantity of noodles (60 to 70g) than normal noodles in a plastic bag (approximately 90 to 100g) is a remnant of this and the quantity of Kappumen, usually advertised as 'Large-serving size,' is often the same as that of noodles in a plastic bag.

That the often broadcast scenes of riot police officers eating this in freezing temperatures in the Asama-Sanso incident in 1972 triggered this Kappumen to be accepted and spread among Japanese people is a popular theory.

At present, noodles in general are commercialized such as ramen, soba, udon, yakisoba, spaghetti, somen (fine white noodles), reimen (cold noodles in Korean style), harusame (bean-starch vermicelli) (cuisine), and pho (noodles in Vietnamese style).

Kappu-ramen is produced and sold overseas as well. The main production and consumption region is the East Asian region and also it is popular in North America (especially Mexico), especially among the Hispanic residents. The Japanese manufacturers are also producing locally.

Container

Styrofoam or paper is usually used for the container. Good heat retention and the fact that it is not hot to the touch are the reason. Paper containers overcome these points by making the outside cardboard-shaped. The typical item is "the main product of SANYO FOODS Co.,Ltd." The recent containers have no tier only with double structure of the cup. Also some paper containers have space in paper like styrofoam (many in the Nissin Cup Noodle series). It is easier to create various shapes with styrofoam than paper containers. All initial containers were made of styrofoam, but late-started manufacturers created mainly the paper containers because NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS owned the patent.

Based on the SPEED98 list ('the policy to handle the problem of endocrine-disrupting chemical material by the Environmental Agency') provided by the then Environmental Agency (the current Ministry of the Environment) in 1998, the mass media criticized that it would affect to human body by consuming endocrine-disrupting chemical material (styrene dimer and styrene trimer) eluted from a foamed polystyrene container after putting soup and noodles and pouring very hot water, consequently it became such a big problem that every manufacturer immediately switched to a paper container. Later the Kappumen industry and others reexamined this theory and the former Ministry of International Trade and Industry and former Environment Agency announced in 2000 that 'there is no evidence that it has endocrine-disrupting effect' and 'most reports denied any effect,' but Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health announced in 2006 that it has confirmed the affect on living things by animal test. Still this is a result under the situation to consume 10 times or more than usual and to what extent it affects the actual human body is unknown. Furthermore, styrofoam (polystyrene) is removed from the list because the doubt for the material related to the environmental hormone has been cleared in November 2000 as described above. However, a health food Egoma which was popular in 2004 became a major talking point because it would melt this styrofoam cup, and NCAC (National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan) examined and alerted consumers because a certain amount of it melted when putting this beefsteak plant oil into a cup and pouring hot water of 100 degrees.

These containers are washed and discharged from homes as landfill waste, but it is possible to discharge unwashed things as combustible garbage under some local governments. The discharge standard varies depending on the region (=> garbage problem).

Most dried noodles are directly put in a container, while all fresh noodles are vacuum-packed and then put in a container.

Cooking

Cooking completes by pouring hot water and waiting for three minutes (it varies for approximately one to five minutes) in many products. The dried noodle products of which cooking time is one minute were sold by the companies for a certain period of time, but many of them were short-lived due to problems, such as noodles lost texture before eating, thereby only the yakisoba type remains. For yakisoba without soup, it is necessary to drain hot water. As for some products of fresh noodles and others, it is necessary to drain hot water and pour it again. However, those with fresh noodles tend to have a little shorter time for cooking.

Furthermore, basically the use of approximately 100 degrees of hot water is assumed, therefore occasionally hot water in a pot and others cannot make it tasty even if using a reboiling function. Warning for a scald is also required because of using hot water and there are many accidents and cases involved this. Each manufacturer alerts as well as asks for supervision by guardians when children and others eat this.

The attached soup and ingredients are mainly dried by freeze-drying, and also separate bags of them are attached to high-priced products similarly as instant ramen noodles in a plastic bag. Those products vary such as taking out the bag, putting on noodles, and pouring hot water, thereby it is recommended to read the instructions and others described in a package before pouring hot water. Ingredients of retort foods are attached to some of them and it is recommended to warm up the ingredients in hot water for some products.

Moreover, Kappumen is classified into 'Standard' and 'Upper grade' by the Japan Agricultural Standards. Standard is those of which ingredients are 6% or more to the weight of noodles and Upper grade, 15% or more, and for Kappu-yakisoba or spaghetti, Standard, 4% or more and Upper grade, 10% or more.

Furthermore, there are a few products exclusively for cooking by microwave oven (NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS 'Nissin Yakisoba U.F.O./Donbe NEXT GENERATION' series and others). Many others are not cookable by microwave oven in Japan, but in America, many described as "microwavable" (cookable by a microwave oven) are sold.

Market

The first brands such as 'Cup Noodle' and 'Akai Kitsune' had a commanding lead in market share for a long time, but Cup Noodle sales were only half in 2008, -52% compared before the price increase, due to steep rise of raw material cost and others. On the other hand, inexpensive own-brand products deployed in major super markets have made a big leap.