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Japanese consumers gobble up ‘mystery meat’ in Nissin cup noodles as dish sells like hotcakes

Those spongy lumps of uncertain origin in instant cup noodles? Turns out consumers in Japan love them just as much as the main attraction.

Nissin Food Products Co. now sells one of its ingredients as “mystery meat,” a term popularised by customers of the cheap, quick meals. Each 200-gram (7-ounce) box – equivalent to 47 cup noodles’ worth of the chunks – retails for 650 yen (US$4). On the back are various suggested recipes for the rehydrated protein, including pasta bolognese, a hamburger, or stuffed peppers.

After its invention by Nissin’s founder Momofuku Ando 66 years ago, instant noodles have taken over the world, with the market projected to almost double to US$90.8 billion in 2032 from the prior decade. For Tokyo-based Nissin, tapping into new trends is a way to respond to consumers in a market that now offers a wide range of choices.

“I knew the new product would become popular, but I didn’t expect it to blow up like it did,” said Tomohiro Kono, of Nissin’s marketing department. “Customers have told us through our website and on social media that they want to eat a lot of this one ingredient.”

After the term became popular on social media, Nissin started to use mystery meat in its marketing in 2016, eventually offering cup noodles with extra portions of the substance. At the Cup Noodles Museum in Yokohama, a special dish with mystery meat heaped atop rice is available on weekends and holidays for a limited time. Despite the moniker, the recipe isn’t a big secret: it’s a combination of minced pork, vegetables and ingredients derived from soybeans.

At Nissin’s web store, some 600 boxes available online sold out in about three hours, quicker than most other new products, according to the company. About one month after its