Insights & Trends

Instant noodles craze: but make it gourmet

April 2024

Whether it’s in a pot, bowl, slurped, boiled or fried, instant noodles remain as popular as ever, with 270 million portions consumed around the world every day. That’s according to the World Instant Noodles Association, anyway. According to a 2023 Mintel report, Pan Asian foods experienced a 17% growth, indicating a rapid expansion in the Asian food market1

So how are instant noodles levelling up? PR & marketing intern Mimi pops on the kettle, grabs a pot and tucks into the trend.  

Instant noodles are not new, in fact the origins are unknown. They’re thought to have originated in China and then been introduced into Japan between the 17th and 20th centuries. The instant noodle landscape has changed drastically especially in the last few years – and not just as a student’s dinner staple. Instant noodles are now a key ingredient for many households with demand reaching 420million servings in the UK according to Statista 2024. 

Battle of the brands 

Brands such as Batchelors and Pot Noodle are the most known Pot Snacks in the UK securing most of the market and supermarket shelves. The rise in popularity of casual dining has seen an increase in interest in the Asian cuisine. Wagamamas, Itsu and Kokoro are just a few to name. Restaurant to retail has created more variety for consumers with Itsu having a range available within all major retailers. Have a sneak peek below at just how much instant noodles are taking over within the supermarket.  

We counted over 14 brands in one supermarket. Itsu caught my eye for its unique packaging. And Kabuto stood out as having a unique flavour (mac n cheese, yes really!).  

Cost effective  

The price of instant noodles is relatively low, making it the go-to if you are waiting for payday or your purse strings are a little tighter this week.  

NIQ state that the ambient ready meals market is worth £300.5million and growing by 12.8% in value, however volume is declining by 8.7%- the bulk of this being Pot Snacks and Instant Noodles, worth circa £260million2. Pot Snacks has been impacted by inflation, which has reduced volume over the last year as consumers bought less. This can be supported by a survey by the Resolution Foundation, who suggest that 75% of people are reining in their spending on food. The pandemic, high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis have made consumers more conscious of their spending habits. Consequently, consumers are compelled to make changes.  For instance, considering a Tesco meal deal is now £3.90 (£3.40 with a clubcard) or the premium version costing £5.50 (£5 with a clubcard), consumers are actively seeking cheaper alternatives. The cost of a instant noodle pot or packet is drastically cheaper than a meal deal with the average instant pot costing around £1.20. The introduction of instant noodles on TikTok shop has also become a game changer as consumers no longer have to rely on physically going to the shop to relieve cravings. 

Consumers look for convenience as well as flavour on top of that. Pot snack brands would maintain that they offer both- convenience and flavour. But with consumers elevating their noodles at home, brands are creating more gourmet flavour offerings and high quality ingredients to keep up with the craze.  

TikTok Viral 

Available to purchase on TikTok shop, the latest trend is consumers making videos trying the different instant noodle flavours that are available. The most popular, Buldak ramen noodles are consistently seen on viral TikTok videos with their unique flavours – cheese, carbonara, kimchi, meat spaghetti and many more. The flavours are so unique that you would think it’s a craze or fad that will be short lived but instead the market is continuing to grow and develop with user generated content – mini recipe ideas to elevate instant noodles at home. The recipes circulating on TikTok allows consumers to create restaurant quality dishes at home. After having a little scroll on TikTok, there are ramen bowls (using instant noodles) that could compete with Wagamamas – that is how impressive they are! 

Health concerns 

“A serving of instant noodles provides about 7 grams of fat with half of that amount being saturated fat, 26 grams of carbohydrates and 5 grams of protein.” (  

The change of laws in the UK (HFSS) and consumers being more conscious of what they are eating has seen instant noodle brands having to react. The result is new instant noodles which have more nutritional value than ever before. Huel have even created their own instant noodle pot – containing 22g of plant-based protein, 26 vitamins/minerals and a bold claim to have 171 health benefits. Altogether, brands are listening to the consumer and making vital changes through new products. So next time you want to grab a pot to go, try not to feel too guilty- just make sure it is the right pot!  

Top picks 

Check out the latest instant noodles and hop on the TikTok trend and make some content of your own with some of these recommendations below.  

Images are sourced from Tesco, Waitrose, Amazon, B&M and Huel.

The once frowned upon instant noodle has now become an accepted ingredient, taking half of the aisle within a large supermarket. The key players in the market are continuing to grow and develop ideas with their instant noodle products – due to the consumer creating gourmet instant noodles at home, they feel they have no choice but to innovate. With the growth of Japanese and Asian foods, noodles have been highlighted by Whole Foods as on-trend for 20243. From the growth of Ramen to new ingredients and flavours; the product is easy to prepare delicious and low cost and will continue to grow in popularity in 2024.

So, whether you are making your own ramen bowl, slurping a pot, elevating your own instant noodles, one thing is clear: instant noodles are here to stay and the elevation keeps getting crazier.  

1 Mintel, MAT to June 2023 

2 NIQ Scantrack Lat MAT to Sept 2023 vs Prev Yr 

3 Whole Foods Market 2024 Trends report