Bright People Foods want to revolutionise US ramen  consumption with new brand launch

Bright People Foods want to revolutionise US ramen consumption with new brand launch

Family-owned Bright People Foods, the manufacturer of the Dr. McDougall's brand, is entering the instant noodle category with the launch of a new brand, Mike's Might Good Craft Ramen. The business wants to use its expertise in quality organic production to bring a premium offering to the instant noodle category in the US. Katy Askew spoke to Carolyn Vinnicombe, head of sales and member of the founding family at Bright People, to discover more about the group's ambitions. 

Bright People Foods is preparing for the nationwide roll out of its new instant noodle brand, Mike's Mighty Good Craft Ramen, later this year. 

The company developed its ramen concept in response to what its founding family, the Vinnicombes, saw as a gap in the market, head of sales Carolyn Vinnicombe tells just-food. 

"We are from the San Francisco Bay area, that is where I grew up. Some of the best ramen in the country is from there and we would go to ramen bars and [ask] 'why doesn't anything in the store on the shelf taste like this?' We have been in the natural food industry for 30 years, my parents have, we are a family business. And we thought we can do this, someone needs to make this happen."

Vinnicombe believes that by offering a differentiated, quality ramen product Bright People can act as a disruptor to challenge the largest instant noodle brands in the US such as Japanese-owned Nissin and Maruchan.

"We are a huge disruptor in ramen... We are taking on the entire ramen industry. We are bringing craft ramen to the store shelves. We started Mike's Mighty Good Ramen, which is named after my dad Mike, because we don't think that the ramen in the store should taste any less amazing than the ramen in a ramen bar," she enthuses. 

Key unique selling points for Mike's Mighty Good Craft Ramen, Vinnicombe says, are the quality and values that Bright People bring to the table. "We are making our own organic noodles from scratch, every day in California, so what you are tasting here is made in Woodland, in Yolo County, where a lot of organic agriculture is grown in California. We wanted to bring people the best ingredients so we are not using any palm oil, we are using organic ingredients, simple ingredients, we are not sourcing GMOs. We are doing ramen the right way."

Prior to launching the brand, the Vinnicombe family made the "significant" investment to establish a new production plant in Woodland to produce the group's noodles. The facility came online last year. "We have been manufacturers in California since 1953. As a family, we have made a huge investment because we really believe in what we are doing... We have been around for 50 years, it has taken a lot of work and a lot of years to get to this place," Vinnicombe says. 

For Vinnicombe, the value of the Mike's Mighty Good Craft Ramen brand also lies in the relationship the company is forging with consumers. "People want brands that they can trust. People want to know who is making their food. We have the trust of our consumers. We want to bring people good ingredients but also let them know that there are real people that have strong values making their food."

Bright People Foods is planning to get its message – which centres on the quality of its product and the ingredients that go into it – out to consumers via social media as well as an extensive point of sale marketing campaign, slated for later in the year. "We have relationships with bloggers across the US, we are doing recipes on our website, turning up the dial on our social media campaign. We are also doing a lot of cooking demos at retailers across the US. We want to show people exactly how to make the ramen bowl of their dreams in just minutes. We think the ramen bowl could be the new smoothie bowl."

The company, which showcased its products at the Natural Products Expo West trade show last month, expects Mike's Mighty Good Ramen to hit shelves throughout the US in June. The group has already secured listings with the likes of Whole Food Market and is in discussions with other retailers. "We have had the most amazing response," Vinnicombe claims. 

As it works toward securing national listings for the new Mike's brand, Bright People Foods has been able to lean on the relationships it has developed through its flagship natural brand, Dr. McDougall's Right Foods, the sales executive continues. 

"We already make Dr. McDougall's Right Foods, which is the No.1 brand in grab and go healthy products. That is already a national brand and we have the capability to launch nationally with Mike's Mighty Good Ramen. We have a wonderful relationship with retailers across the US that know that we make great foods, for everybody, at a great price. They know that we are amazing innovators and we have had an amazing response for our products."

Mike's Mighty Good Ramen appeals to both snacking and meal occasions, Vinnicombe says. 

"We view ourselves as partners in cooking, we want to bring a gourmet experience to everyone. Really, we want to raise the calibre of food out there. We get excited and we are motivated by people experiencing a mindful moment in their daily lives, a quality of food that they haven't been able to have before. We understand that people are busy but that people also want to have the best food possible," she explains. "We have actually made a cookbook. With just a few simple ingredients you can make ramen for lunch, for dinner, as well as a healthy snack."

Mike's Mighty Good Craft Ramen will be rolled out at a price point of US$2.39 per cup, which Vinnicombe says reflects the brand's premium quality while remaining affordable. 

"We are a premium ramen company. When people think of ramen right now, they think of that $0.99 stuff out there. And that doesn't taste anything like on the ramen bar shelf. We are bringing people a premium product, that is still affordable, but we are really giving people quality that they haven't seen before."