How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk

BANDAI SPIRITS × NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS

The challenge of creating something that exceeds expectations.
In order to create something that exceeds expectations, it is essential to be passionate, to continue challenging yourself, and to be willing to learn from different disciplines.
"TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk" is a project in which two masters of different industries and professions have conversations with each other to gain new discoveries, ideas, and insights.

For this talk, we invited Mr. Tsutomu Shirasawa from the marketing department of NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS, who collaborated with us to release BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle. He spoke with Rui Terashima, who is in charge of planning at the BANDAI SPIRITS Hobby Products Department, about the development process of the Cup Noodle plastic models and how they approach their work.
What are the two masters' thoughts on manufacturing, and what are their philosophies?

Profile

Rui Terashima

Rui Terashima

New Hobby Team, Hobby Products Department
BANDAI SPIRITS CO., LTD.

Rui Terashima joined the company in 2016. With the mission of creating completely new plastic models that have never existed in the world, he works on the development of challenging products every day. He has been in charge of tool series products such as nippers and BEST HIT CHRONICLE products. His hobbies include futsal and video games.

Tsutomu Shirasawa

Tsutomu Shirasawa

Brand Manager, Marketing Department
NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS CO., LTD.

Tsutomu Shirasawa joined his company in 1997. He works as the brand manager of Cup Noodle. His daily routine includes tasting the company's products and running five kilometers every morning.

    * The content, titles, product prices, etc. in this article are as of the time of the interview.

How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk

A new approach that goes beyond the norm

Terashima
Thank you for joining us today. The last time I saw you was at the final meeting for BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle.
Shirasawa
That's right. After the announcement of the launch, there was a lot of response from various people, and I was relieved that the product had finally been released.
Terashima
BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle was launched in 2019 as a brand project of BEST HIT CHRONICLE, which uses the latest technology to turn hit products made by companies in the Showa and Heisei periods into plastic model kits. For this project, I made a proposal to Mr. Shirasawa, the brand manager of Cup Noodle at Nissin Foods. My proposal was to convey the appeal of plastic models to more people by making a plastic model of Cup Noodle, a legendary food product that has been loved all over the world for about half a century.
BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle—A new kind of plastic model
BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle—A new kind of plastic model
Shirasawa
Listening to your proposal, I felt that making a plastic model was an interesting way to promote Cup Noodle. Although we deal with the Cup Noodle as a food product, we also pursue the entertainment aspect at the same time, so I felt that our approach to the brand is similar to that of BANDAI SPIRITS.

On the official Cup Noodle Twitter page, we post unique content related to Cup Noodle, and a few years ago, we actually created and tweeted a rendered image of a plastic model of a Cup Noodle cup and the ingredients that go inside, along with the comment, "Can you 'make' it in 3 minutes?" At the time, the tweet trended quite a bit, and I thought it was guaranteed to be an interesting concept.
The image Nissin Food Products posted to the official Cup Noodle Twitter page in 2017
The image Nissin Food Products posted to the official Cup Noodle Twitter page in 2017
Terashima
When I was planning the proposal, I didn't even know that tweet existed, so I was surprised to learn about it. After we launched the product, we received a lot of feedback from users saying, "The tweet came true!" so there were many factors propelling the product even before its release.
Shirasawa
On the other hand, I had some honest doubts about whether the people would enjoy it and whether it would sell. What were the expectations within your company?
BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle—A new kind of plastic model
BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle—A new kind of plastic model
The image Nissin Food Products posted to the official Cup Noodle Twitter page in 2017
The image Nissin Food Products posted to the official Cup Noodle Twitter page in 2017

The "consumer's perspective" behind Cup Noodle
recognized during the development of the plastic model

Terashima
To be honest, a lot of the same doubts were raised when I made the proposal at our company. But I was sure that this reaction was proof that this was a new, outside-the-box approach, and I was excited about the potential of this project, so I proceeded with confidence.

During the actual development process, I was able to once again realize how Cup Noodle is a product created from the consumer's perspective, and this led to a series of discoveries. We are also engaged in manufacturing from the consumer's perspective at our company, but in the food product industry, the consumer's perspective behind Cup Noodle, which is said to be the "invention of the century", is just incredible. It's really something to be held in high regard.
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
Shirasawa
The technology unique to Cup Noodle, such as the "middle suspension structure" and "dense noodle cluster structure," were faithfully reproduced in the prototype stage, and I was again impressed by the perspective and quality of the plastic model. We were very impressed, and we requested some changes to make it more realistic.
A plastic model recreation of the 'middle suspension structure,' a unique Cup Noodle technology that suspends the noodles above the bottom of the cup to protect them from being shaken during transport and prevent them from breaking.
A plastic model recreation of the "middle suspension structure," a unique Cup Noodle technology that suspends the noodles above the bottom of the cup to protect them from being shaken during transport and prevent them from breaking.
Model prototypes of noodles to recreate the 'dense noodle cluster structure.' In real Cup Noodles, this noodle structure, with a high density at the top and a low density at the bottom, allows the noodles to unravel naturally and soften evenly when hot water is poured over them.
Model prototypes of noodles to recreate the "dense noodle cluster structure." In real Cup Noodles, this noodle structure, with a high density at the top and a low density at the bottom, allows the noodles to unravel naturally and soften evenly when hot water is poured over them.
Assembly image of the noodle part of the plastic model
Assembly image of the noodle part of the plastic model
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
Terashima
The most difficult part of the project was the structure of the cup. You could easily complete the package part by affixing a sticker that goes around the cup-shaped piece, but that would detract from the real fun of assembling plastic models. We decided to make a complete plastic model of the cup as well, because we wanted people to be able to have the tactile experience of feeling the excellent package design of beloved Cup Noodle products. However, to make a plastic model of a cup that is supposed to be thin and divide it into parts, the structure would become too complex, and the parts would have to be too thick, detracting from the realism. We had to think very hard to come up with a way make it look more like the real thing and to make it work structurally, while making sure it is of mass-producible quality.

An early prototype of the cup with a thicker inner surface

a finished plastic model with reduced thickness

An early prototype of the cup with a thicker inner surface (left) and a finished plastic model with reduced thickness (right)
Terashima
If we had compromised on the faithfulness of the reproduction just because it's a plastic model, we would have diminished the greatest appeal of BEST HIT CHRONICLE. The development team in charge of planning, design, molding, and production all holed up in a room, and a cup of Cup Noodle in each person's hand, we brainstormed. We were all overjoyed when we found a way to proceed.
Assembly image of the plastic model
Assembly image of the plastic model

How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk

We wanted to challenge the limits of the technology

Shirasawa
Even when we didn't identify any issues, Mr. Terashima would take it upon himself to say, "I still want to improve this part, so let me think it over and get back to you next time." In this way, we helped each other raise our attention to detail.
Terashima
Gradually, even the slightest compromise became unacceptable. (Laughs) It wasn't just me. Members of the development team at the factory would offer their opinions on how to improve the product. We wanted to challenge the limits of plastic model technology, and I think it turned out to be a project that combined the wisdom and know-how of all of the plastic model production technology that we have pursued to date.
Shirasawa
The founder of our company once said, "First, think of the ideal product. Then, prepare the production facilities. It cannot be our development goal to make products that are easy to produce." We are a company that has the persistence to brainstorm, pursue a goal, and achieve it, even if it takes a lot of cost and effort. Because of this, I was able to sympathize with BANDAI SPIRITS' refusal to compromise.
Terashima
Thanks to NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS , we ended up with a great product, and the promotional efforts have expanded beyond our expectations. I would be very happy if we are able to convey the appeal of plastic models and Cup Noodle through our product, BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle.

BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle [2,420 yen (including 10% tax)/2,200 yen (excluding tax)] was launched in Japan on September 18, 2020 (Fri), on the birthday of Cup Noodle. The product is also planned to be launched overseas in the future. (The real Cup Noodle is in the center of the photo on the left.)

BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle [2,420 yen (including 10% tax)/2,200 yen (excluding tax)] was launched in Japan on September 18, 2020 (Fri), on the birthday of Cup Noodle. The product is also planned to be launched overseas in the future. (The real Cup Noodle is in the center of the photo on the left.)

BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle [2,420 yen (including 10% tax)/2,200 yen (excluding tax)] was launched in Japan on September 18, 2020, on the birthday of Cup Noodle. The product is also planned to be launched overseas in the future. (The real Cup Noodle is in the center of the photo on the left.)
The Cup Noodle lid stopper seals were provided to BANDAI SPIRITS by NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS
The Cup Noodle lid stopper seals were provided to BANDAI SPIRITS by NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS
The lid of this BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle is kept sealed using a lid stopper seal.
The lid of this BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle is kept sealed using a lid stopper seal.

If you can't win a competition within the company,
how can you win against the market competition?

Terashima
September 18th is the 49th birthday of Cup Noodle. Happy birthday!
It is very difficult to maintain a brand for half a century, and that is why you, who are responsible for branding, have an immense responsibility. We don't have brand managers at our company. Could you fill us in on what your role is?
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
Shirasawa
We have a number of brands, and each brand is managed by a vertically structured group. Brand managers have the authority and responsibility as the president of the brand company they are in charge of, and work with a managerial perspective. At our company, we have a way of thinking. "If you can't win a competition within the company, how can you win against the market competition?" It is my mission to refine and strengthen the brands I am in charge of within this competitive structure.
Terashima
It must be because of this culture that you have always been leaders in the industry.
Shirasawa
What is the development process for new plastic model products like?
Terashima
We begin by deciding on a subject for the plastic model, and after the presentation, we discuss the promotion plans and other topics. Product development is mainly carried out at the Bandai Hobby Center, a factory in Shizuoka.
Plastic models are assembled from parts, but the key is to start with a concept for the assembled product, and in the case of the BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle, we started by designing the what the exterior would look like. Then, we go on to the design how the parts will be divided for the plastic model, and we decide on the number of parts we need and how it will be assembled. From there, molds are made and formed for production. The development period takes about ten months.

I visited the Bandai Hobby Center quite often myself, and made a conscious effort to see the actual product as it is being built.
What is the development process like for new products at NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS?
Shirasawa
We start the product development process based on the ideas and data that we obtain through the information we gather each day. While exchanging prototypes with the development staff at the laboratory, the final design and specifications are decided five months before we launch the product. Then, we prepare for business negotiations, promotions, and production, and until the product is finally launched. The development period at our company is about the same length.

To launch a single product, we must produce it at several factories in Japan at the same time, which requires a large amount of raw ingredients and materials, as well as a wide range of coordination between various departments.

What is important for a single brand to be loved for a long time

Terashima
What should be done and what is important for a brand to be loved for a long time?
Shirasawa
I think it involves deciding on what you change and what you don't change. When you look at the products that are around us, there are some that people want to be innovated, like home appliances. But with food products, some things need to be kept the same, as the taste of home and tastes that we remember are an essential part of the human experience.

For Cup Noodle, we never make changes that deviate from the taste that our customers expect, and if we need to enhance the taste, we do so in a way that the customers won't notice.
Terashima
Are there products that are perceived to have the same old taste that they have always had, when in reality the taste has changed quite a bit?
Shirasawa
There are some products like that, yes. Some products are changed just a little bit each time, so you don't notice the difference when you eat them regularly, but when you compare them to the ones from a few years ago, you will notice the difference. When it comes to long-selling products, if you don't continue to improve them, people are sure to get tired of them, so we are always going through a process of trial and error to add various touches such as a sense of reliability, newness, nostalgia, or style.
Even for a standard product like Cup Noodle, we are always trying our best to aim for new heights as the times change.
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
Terashima
I think it's really incredible that a single product can be loved by customers of all ages for such a long time.
Shirasawa
We are always transforming as part of a proactive effort to be a sustainable brand. For example, in 2008 we changed our containers from styrofoam to paper cups called "ECO Cups." However, we wanted like to retain the feel of the styrofoam cups that we were familiar with. That's why we applied a rough coating with a texture similar to Styrofoam. In addition, paper cups usually curl where they touch the mouth, but we intentionally made them square with corners so that the sensation you feel when your mouth touches the cup does not change. Some people are surprised that we would go to such lengths to improve Cup Noodle, which costs little more than a hundred yen per cup. In fact, it takes a lot of time and effort, but this kind of attention to detail, even to the point of futility, is the essence of NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS and its corporate culture.

Transforming the process into entertainment

Terashima
I am deeply impressed by the fact that your company has stayed successful for so long by making a distinction between what you keep and what you change. I would also like to ask about your promotional efforts. How do you come up with your innovative commercials and other entertaining ideas?
A revolutionary product, the world's most stylish cabbage removal tool for U.F.O. products. After draining the water, the elasticity of the rubber is used to tap the front of the lid with a bang to remove the cabbage from the underside of the lid. The tool can remove 81% of the finely cut cabbage from the underside of the lid.
A revolutionary product, the world's most stylish cabbage removal tool for U.F.O. products. After draining the water, the elasticity of the rubber is used to tap the front of the lid with a bang to remove the cabbage from the underside of the lid. The tool can remove 81% of the finely cut cabbage from the underside of the lid.
Shirasawa
We are always thinking about creating things that are unique or that stand out.
When I was in charge of the Nissin Yakisoba U.F.O., a cup yakisoba product, in 2018, we actually came up with the idea for the "Knock Knock Cabbages," a device to remove the cabbage stuck to the back of the U.F.O. lid, and we made a prototype for it. We had already been aware of the problem of cabbage sticking to the back of the lid after draining the water. We conducted an actual study that revealed that the average number of pieces of cabbage stuck to the underside of the lid was 4.8, and when multiplied by the annual number of servings of Nissin Yakisoba U.F.O. we sold, we found that an estimated 4.17 tons of cabbage is thrown away per year. We designed "Knock Knock Cabbages" with the hope that we could entertain our customers while dealing with the issue in a serious way.

In spite of this playfulness, as a manufacturer of food products, we make sure to leave absolutely no risk in terms of safety. The world of fun and the world of food safety are two separate things.
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
A revolutionary product, the world's most stylish cabbage removal tool for U.F.O. products. After draining the water, the elasticity of the rubber is used to tap the front of the lid with a bang to remove the cabbage from the underside of the lid. The tool can remove 81% of the finely cut cabbage from the underside of the lid.
A revolutionary product, the world's most stylish cabbage removal tool for U.F.O. products. After draining the water, the elasticity of the rubber is used to tap the front of the lid with a bang to remove the cabbage from the underside of the lid. The tool can remove 81% of the finely cut cabbage from the underside of the lid.
How did the fusion of plastic models and Cup Noodle come to be? | TAKUMI(Master) × TAKUMI(Master) Cross Talk
Terashima
The purpose of the product is to fill your stomach, and you consider the process until the moment you eat it to be entertainment. I can really relate to that concept. You get a plastic model because you want the finished product, but to get there, you have to go through the process of assembly. We are always thinking about how to make that process more fun and interesting, so I feel honored to have been able to collaborate with NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS, with whom we share the same ideas, even though we are in different industries.
Shirasawa
Cup Noodle will celebrate its 50th anniversary in September 2021. I would like to develop a variety of promotions for this anniversary, and I would also like to work on things other than food that people can enjoy, like this collaboration with BANDAI SPIRITS.
Terashima
Through this collaboration, I learned a lot about NISSIN FOOD PRODUCTS' ideas and how carefully crafted their products are, and I want to make sure that I absorb these ideas and apply them in my future projects. And we will further expand the fun of building plastic models with our own style of entertainment!
Shiraishi
I hope we can continue to lift each other up.
Terashima
Thank you for your time!
BEST HIT CHRONICLE 1/1 Cup Noodle