Different types of instant ramen. (Nissin Food Products Co.)
The first product in Japan was preseasoned to make it easy to prepare. Instant ramen took a giant leap forward in 1962, when Myojo Foods Co. and Toyo Suisan began selling instant noodles that came with a seperate soup seasoning, giving them a much more authentic flavor.
Competition in terms of both price and product development heated up in the 1960s. Sanyo Foods Co. began selling instant ramen that contained dried green onions, while Acecook Co. increased the volume of its noodles from 85 grams per package to 100 grams. In 1979 House Foods Corp. released an instant version of tonkotsu ramen, a type of ramen that developed in the Kyushu region and gets its unique flavor from using pork to make the soup base. This led other companies to develop region-specific products, and soon there were different types of instant ramen being sold in places like Hokkaido, Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyushu. These kinds of products that proudly display regional characteristics are still quite popular, and now there are even instant noodles based on the flavor of a specific famous restaurant.
Supermarkets in Japan carry many kinds of instant ramen.
In the 1980s a number of high-priced, upscale versions of instant noodles were put on the market, doing away with the "cheap" image of instant ramen. And in 1989, "fresh-type" noodles (meaning they have not been dried) went on sale. Making fresh-type noodles is technically difficult: A mixture of acids is needed to pasteurize the noodles at a high temperature, but ramen noodles are made using an alkaline water called kansui.
There are now many different types of instant ramen and many flavors to choose from. New varieties are always being produced, and there are currently more than 800 brands of instant noodles on sale in Japan.