Rapid Ramen Cooker: Here's What Happened After Shark Tank

Microwaving instant ramen noodles is a familiar scenario, especially for many college students and young adults that don't have a stove or the time to wait 11 minutes to cook ramen, as the package instructs. This was true for U.C. Davis alumni Christopher Johnson, yet he also started noticing that his microwaved noodles would end up gummy much of the time, and he began working on a solution.

Since most manufacturers of ramen just offer stovetop instructions (and fail to provide clear guidance for microwave cooking), many ramen lovers, like Johnson, have been left to guess which container to use and how much water to add when using the convenient appliance to make the meal. After some research, Johnson discovered that, if there is too much water in the bowl, the microwave simply heats the water and not necessarily the noodles, resulting in subpar results.

Johnson did his homework, and by 2012, he had created the Rapid Ramen Cooker, a microwave-safe bowl explicitly designed for blocks of dried noodles. The rectangular-shaped bowl is made of BPA-free polypropylene with a helpful water line to indicate precisely how much liquid to add. 

After launching the product in 2012, Johnson successfully placed it in a number of local retailers in Sacramento, California, as well as online at Amazon before pitching it to "Shark Tank" the next year. Appearing during Season 5, Episode 4 of "Shark Tank," in 2013,  Johnson asked the panel of sharks for an initial investment of $300,000 for 10% equity.

What happened to Rapid Ramen Cooker on 'Shark Tank'?

With Christopher Johnson setting the Rapid Ramen Cooker's valuation at $3 million, shark Kevin O'Leary immediately pressed the founder on overall sales.

According to Johnson, the Rapid Ramen Cooker did $164,000 in sales three months before appearing on the show, with $80,000 netted in the previous month alone. He added that the Rapid Ramen Cooker was then sold at 2,500 retailers nationwide, including Raley's, Albertsons, Safeway, WinCo, and H-E-B, with those markets representing 80% of his total sales. Johnson estimated that the company would do $2 million in sales in 2013 but needed more capital to beef up inventory. He also shared the unit cost $0.75 to make and retailed for $5.99, leaving impressive margins.

Mark Cuban was the first to pass. But, impressed with the numbers, O'Leary made the first offer: a $300,000 investment with a royalty of $1.10 from every unit sold until he recouped $300,000, then a $0.50 royalty per unit in perpetuity. Since O'Leary thought the product was a short-lived fad, he wanted to make his money back quickly, thereby forgoing equity in the company. 

Sharks Lori Greiner and Barbara Corcoran passed, finding it difficult to invest in a product they felt could easily be ripped off. However, Robert Herjavec found Johnson's worth ethic too compelling to walk away from, despite the numbers sounding inflated, so he offered $300,000 for 40% equity. With two offers on the table, Johnson then stepped away from the panel to phone a friend.

Rapid Ramen Cooker makes a deal on 'Shark Tank'

As Christopher Johnson phoned a friend seeking advice on what to do, shark Kevin O'Leary schemed with Robert Herjavec to make a new deal for Rapid Ramen Cooker. The duo offered a $300,000 investment for a $0.75 royalty on each unit sold plus 25% equity; after the initial investment was paid back, they also wanted a $0.25 royalty per unit in perpetuity. Johnson rejected the new deal, accusing the two sharks of siphoning the company's cash flow as it grew.

Although Mark Cuban was the first to reject any deal initially, he capitalized on the moment when O'Leary and Herjavec's offer fell apart. Cuban offered $150,000 for 20% equity with another $150,000 loan that Johnson would have to pay back with interest, a deal he said he's given other "Shark Tank" businesses in the past. Johnson countered, and a deal was finally made for a $150,000 investment for 15% equity and a $150,000 loan.

As Johnson explained to Sacramento's ABC10 in 2016, Rapid Ramen Cooker saw an immediate spike in sales following the show airing in April 2013, but it was only temporary. Johnson said he needed to focus on his strong work ethic to continue to build without relying on the show's 15 million viewers, who would peter out over time, and it appears he has done just that.

Rapid Ramen Cooker after 'Shark Tank'

Since appearing on "Shark Tank" in 2013, 50,000 retail locations have stocked the Rapid Ramen Cooker, including major players like Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens. Eyeing the millions of college students that survive daily on the salty comfort food, the product can also be found in more than 1,100 college bookstores. 

As well, the success led to founder Christopher Johnson launching a larger parent company, Rapid Brands, which claims to be "the fastest growing microwave cookware company in the world."

Rapid Brand's website claims more than 50 million Rapid Ramen Cookers have been sold so far, with over 1,000 sold on Amazon in the past month alone. As well, Lori Grenier and Barbara Corcoran's concerns over copycats were also put to bed after Johnson secured a patent for his design. 

In 2016, Johnson secured a deal with the OG instant ramen manufacturer, Nissin Foods, responsible for Top Ramen and Cup Noodles, to place branded Top Ramen Cookers on retail shelves next to packages of the food, which brought in an estimated $100 million in sales from that product placement alone.

Over the years, the company has also appeared on "Good Morning America's" Steals and Deals segment, as well as on CNN and ABC. Intending to be a billion dollar company, Johnson has created 14 additional "rapid" products, all with convenience and college dorm life living in mind.

Is Rapid Ramen Cooker still in business?

The brand is definitely still in business and has since expanded to include other contraptions for dishes frequently cooked in the microwave. The Rapid Egg Cooker scrambles eggs within 90 seconds and retails for $7.99. Consumers can purchase this item in multi-piece sets containing omelet and egg poacher makers. Oatmeal fans can also cook breakfast in under two minutes using the Rapid Oatmeal Cooker, retailing for $10.99.

There's also the Rapid Mac Cooker that microwaves mac 'n' cheese within five minutes, and the Rapid Hot Dog Cooker that makes five hot dogs in 60 seconds. Large enough for three servings of any shaped pasta, there's also the Rapid Pasta Cooker, which includes a pasta strainer. All of these products retail between $8.49 and $19.99.

But that's not all. There's the Rapid Soup Bowl, an oversized handled mug, selling for $11.99. The Rapid Veggie Steamer and the Rapid Corn and Potato Cooker allow home cooks to microwave veggies in under five minutes and retail between $11.99 and $15.99, whereas the Rapid Rice Cooker prepares rice within three minutes and retails for $13.99.

To round out the offerings, Rapid Brands most recently added snack and dessert housewares, including the Rapid Popcorn Maker and the Rapid Brownie Maker, the latter of which makes four generous-sized brownies within four minutes using store-bought brownie mix.

With an active presence online, Rapid Brands promotes its expanding products, even sharing TikTok recipe videos to turn instant ramen into restaurant-worthy bowls.