Instant Noodles as an Antifriction Device: Making the BOP with PPP in PNG



ABSTRACT  Focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on urban and periurban Papua New Guinea (PNG), we discuss the significance of instant ramen noodles to those now known as the “bottom of the pyramid” (BOP). Although instant noodles are remarkable in that they are eaten by virtually everyone in the world, albeit in different amounts and for different reasons, they are marketed in PNG specifically as a “popularly positioned product” (PPP) for the BOP. Cheap, convenient, tasty, filling, and shelf stable, they are a modern addition to Sidney Mintz's classic “proletarian hunger killers” of sugar, tea, and coffee. But, we argue, instant noodles have a distinctive contemporary role: they do more than sustain the poor; they transform them into the aspiring consumers of the BOP. As such, instant noodles can be viewed as an antifriction device, greasing the skids of capitalism as it extends its reach. [instant noodles, bottom of the pyramid, Papua New Guinea]