Ramen Restaurant Chain Ichiran under Antitrust Probe

Economy Politics

Tokyo, March 29 (Jiji Press)--The Japan Fair Trade Commission is investigating Ichiran Inc., the operator of a popular ramen noodle restaurant chain, for allegedly fixing the retail prices of its products in violation of the antimonopoly law, sources familiar with the matter said Tuesday.

Ichiran, based in the southwestern Japan city of Fukuoka, is suspected of forcing retail shops to sell its cup ramen and other products to be eaten at home at recommended prices, apparently in an attempt to keep the prices from crashing and prevent the brand image of its products and restaurant chain from being damaged, according to the sources.

Under the antimonopoly law, manufacturers are banned in principle from putting restrictions on their products' sales prices set by retailers. Such an act could force consumers to be deprived of opportunities to buy products inexpensively.

According to its website and other sources, Ichiran operates 87 ramen restaurants in and outside Japan, specializing in tonkotsu ramen noodles, a specialty dish from Fukuoka that uses soup broth based on pork bones. Cumulative shipments of the company's "Ichiran Tonkotsu" cup ramen product, released last year at 490 yen including tax, have exceeded 5 million units after about eight months.

An Ichiran official said that the company is in fact undergoing an investigation on a voluntary basis and that it is fully cooperating in the probe.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press