Ken Achenbach eats a lot of ramen.
"Probably more so than is normal," explained the Whistler realtor and founder of the now-shuttered Camp of Champions. Achenbach was slurping up a bowl one day with the camp's longtime photographer and fellow ramen junkie, Dice-K Maru, when they joked that "if we were going to keep eating this much ramen, we should probably make our own that doesn't have all those chemicals in it—so we don't turn into the three-eyed fish from Simpsons."
What started as a quip among friends turned into a reality this January when the friends launched My Ramen Company, makers of a vegan, GMO-free instant ramen that has since flown off the shelves at a handful of stores in Whistler and Japan.
"Our goal was to make a noodle that had no MSG, no chemicals, no preservatives, was non-GMO and as healthy as we could possibly make it," Achenbach said.
Enlisting the help of Hiro Sakata, who runs a renowned ramen shop in Tokyo, the team worked to develop the ideal wheat noodle, one that was head and shoulders above the quality of your typical, stringy instant ramen noodle. The result is a thicker, chewier noodle that took them a year to perfect.
"Being photographers, if we wait a year for one line or one shot, then taking a year to make a noodle is kind of normal," adds Achenbach.
The response so far has come as a welcome surprise.
"Honestly, I can't even believe it. The response we've been getting at supermarkets is kind of blowing our minds," Achenbach said. "It's everything we hoped, but it still blows our mind with how well it's doing for how quickly and how (limited) our production run has been."
Now, he's hoping to leverage that demand into a deal on the hit CBC show Dragons' Den. Filming this week in Toronto for the series' upcoming 13th season, Achenbach joins a long list of Whistler companies that have appeared on the show, including Nonna Pia's Balsamic Reductions, Love Child Organics and The Green Moustache.
"I hope it's going to go really well. It's an amazing product. When we talk to our friends in the food industry, they always tell us the No. 1 thing is having a quality product. So we've got that and we've got a stable of athletes who are ready to (endorse the product) as soon as we get rolling," Achenbach said. "Everyone loves ramen and everyone knows how popular it is; the global ramen market (has reached) 100 billion packs a year. If we can get one per cent of that—even one tenth of one per cent would be good."
Ultimately, Achenbach's goal is to turn My Ramen into a "global brand." Already available in Canada and Japan, he said distribution deals are currently in the works for the U.S. and Europe as well.
"The factory can make as much as we can sell, which is cool," he noted. "We just want to keep growing it as fast and as organically as we can, while keeping the Whistler and Japanese flavour in everything we do."
My Ramen, which comes in Salt, Miso and Soy flavours, is available at Olives Community Market and The Grocery Store. For more information, visit myramen.company/en.