Celebrity chef David Chang revolutionized fine dining when he opened Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City in 2004. Gone were the white tablecloths and stuffy menus. In were minimalist furnishings and steaming bowls of noodles.

Momofuku restaurant group CEO Marguerite Zabar Mariscal says David was inspired by the care, skill, and high-quality ingredients used by chefs in Japan. “No one had really seen that kind of intensity applied to what people perceived as being more humble offerings,” Marguerite says.

Now, Momofuku is bringing that same intensity to its consumer packaged goods (CPG) business, Momofuku Goods, which sells chili crisp, instant noodles, soy sauce, and more. “There just hasn’t been as much attention paid to that section of the supermarket or what’s available direct-to-consumer,” Marguerite says.

Here’s how Momofuku diversified its business, adding a successful CPG line to its storied family of restaurants.

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Making restaurant-grade products

Marguerite says the company took a unique approach to developing products. “We got advice from someone very early on that said you want someone to be able to take a bite of something and have it taste like Momofuku,” Marguerite says.

So the company reverse engineered the process and integrated the products into dishes in its restaurants. Restaurant chefs use the brand’s seasoning salts, soy sauce, and chili crisp in Majordomo in LA and Noodle Bar in New York. “The very first products we made said, ‘restaurant grade,’ which was kind of a little cheeky joke, but we meant it,” Marguerite says.

A person with a bowl of Sweet & Spicy noodles and a Momofuku Sweet & Spicy Noodles package
Momofuku designed the packaging to mimic what the products might look like in a restaurant kitchen, complete with an image of a handwritten label on a piece of tape. Momofuku

Finding a hero product

When Momofuku’s team entered the CPG business, they actually thought soy sauce would be their biggest seller. After all, it’s one of the most popular condiments sold in the U.S. It turns out most people only buy soy sauce once or twice a year, whereas chili crunch was flying off the shelves.

A jar of Momofuku black truffle chili crunch surrounded by dishes of fries, chicken wings, chips, dips and eggs
The company now has four flavors of its bestselling chili crunch, including a black truffle variety.

“We really started to see products like chili crunch, where people are putting it on eggs and just everything that they were consuming on a daily basis, moving a lot quicker,” Marguerite says. That’s when the company adjusted their product mix and invested in expanding into other flavors of its bestsellers.

Creating a content ecosystem

Momofuku Goods has also extended the company’s content empire. Marguerite is proud of a 15,000-member Facebook group dedicated to talking about the products. Members share recipes, post photos of the food they make, and even participate in some sampling.

Email marketing is another effective content channel for the company. The subscriber list has over 500,000 people and an open rate around 65%. “We’re sending them something that they can use, whether it’s recipes or tips and tricks,” Marguerite says.

To learn more about the advantages and challenges of launching a CPG food business, listen to Marguerite’s full interview on Shopify Masters.

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