Taipei, Dec. 5 (CNA) Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp. (TTL) has been marketing its Hua-Tiau Chiew Chicken Noodles (花雕雞麵) for five years, but it wasn't until the secret behind their flavor was revealed last month that they became the hottest instant food product in Taiwan.
The noodles suddenly catapulted into the limelight after a netizen named "Sigma" decided during a sleepless night to put up a post about the "fragrant noodles" on Taiwan's popular bulletin board website, PTT.
Sigma wrote on Nov. 23 that TTL had a large volume of 15-year-old Hua-Tiau Chiew -- a wine made from fermented rice -- in inventory and wanted to use it, so it supplied the brew to its instant noodle contractor to produce the product.
The post sparked active discussion and after a cyber manhunt, it was discovered that Sigma was actually a young, attractive female TTL assistant technical specialist, triggering tremendous interest and boosting the product's sales immediately.
TTL Senior Vice President Su Kuei-yang (蘇癸陽) said that since the post went online, the instant noodles have been selling at a pace of 40,000 cartons -- or around half a million bowls -- per month, more than double the amount they were selling at previously.
Crediting Sigma's post for fueling interest in the noodles made from the old wine, Su said the company has had trouble keeping up with demand, but he expected the situation to change.
"We are stepping up production. The short-term shortage will ease soon," he said.
Su attributed the product's success to several factors beyond Sigma's marketing ingenuity, including its unique recipe, saying that TTL is the only producer of Hua-Tiau Chiew in Taiwan.
"If other instant noodle manufacturers want to produce Hua-Tiau Chiew chicken, they can only buy the wine from us," Su said.
He also noted that the wine is light and rich in amino acids, making it the perfect complement to food.
"Our flavor has been the deciding factor in our success," he said.
The sudden rise to fame of the noodles has even became a topic in Taiwan's Legislature. Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) posted an article on his Facebook page earlier this week, showing him eating a bowl of the noodles and saying how delicious it was.
Wang said he called the TTL chairman to ask him to produce more to satisfy demand and boost the company's revenues.
Legislator Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) of the ruling Kuomintang recently noted in a legislative question-and-answer session that the noodles are selling like hot cakes, and said that some of her constituents have asked her for help in buying the noodles.
Lu said she learned that TTL only has 7.59 million liters of the 15-year-old Hua-Tiau Chiew in storage, enough to produce 1 million cartons of the noodles, raising questions about how long the product will be on the market.
Finance Minister Chang Sheng-ford (張盛和) said TTL will continue producing Hua-Tiau Chiew because it is the main ingredient used, and clarified that "the 15-year-old wine is not the only one that can be used to produce the noodles."
(By Bernie Chiu, Chen Cheng-wei and Lilian Wu)