April 16th, 2005

dragon head

Customise You NOODLE CUP!!!

Something that I eat a potentially unhealthy quantity of: instant ramen noodles. Y'know, the really instant kind: boil water, pour into styrofoam cup of noodles, wait three minutes, stir, "enjoy". It's all that's really availible at 1:30 AM.

So at the grocery store today, I saw that Maruchan had created a new variety: +lime. That is to say, all their standard flavors, plus lime. They doubled their lineup. Admittedly, "Shirimp + Spicy! + Lime" doesn't sound that appealing to me, but it exists. Unfortunately, Smack is my preferred brand. (And it's sad that I even have a preference for $0.40 of noodles.) Maruchan tastes too much like the styrofoam it's packaged in. (Literally- it's the unmistakable flavor of dissolved styrofoam in it that I dislike; Smack doesn't have that problem.)

Unfortunately, Smack doesn't have +Lime, which is too bad because I was kind of curious. Of course, now I'm wonderinig what sweet&sour ramen noodles would be like, or perhaps with green pepper, or...

And then it hit me. It's a perfect business model. A company, selling online only except for their most popular offerings: "CustomRAMEN", or probably something several orders of magnitude better than that. (Then again, some marketing genius came up with "Smack", so maybe not.)

You would go to the web site, go to the shop page, and then "Customize You NOODLE CUP!!!". This would involve the clicking of check-boxes and selections from menus, checkboxes like "+Green Pepper- $0.03" or perhaps "Sweet And Sour Seasoning (free)" on the sauce menu. Then you order, and the minimum shipment would be 12, but you could order an arbitrary amount- with volume discounts past 24.

Once the company gets really big, they could have kiosks in grocery stores! Y'know, little mechanized things with blocks of noodles, styrofoam cups, a lid-putter-onner, a shrink-wrap thing, a label printer, and the assorted ingredients. Then, the minimum order would be "1". You'd use a touch screen or buttons like on those Coinstar machines- enter your money, and the machine leaps to life, filling and neatly packaging a Noodle Cup. Or at no extra charge, it'll forgo the lid for hot water (filtered, of course), and then it'll even stir it for you and spit out a little plastic fork. (Actually, "Ready Now" should probably cost a few cents for the fork.) It would be quite possible to ask for moderate orders from these machines, for those who want several to store. Perhaps the company should forgo the web site ordering, in fact, and only have a vendor site where it offers information for stores that would lease space for such a machine; the machines would be much more popular, due to the lower volume requirement.

These could be extremely profitable as vending machines on college campuses.
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