While in prison, Ron Freeman learned that most prisoners love to eat ramen (a Japanese noodle soup) and often even use it as an alternative to money. So when he was released from prison, Ron decided to launch a company called Mama Pat’s Foods that produces what is now known as the first Black-owned instant ramen noodle brand.
Ron’s idea, however, was to create a ramen brand that is a lot healthier than what his competitors sell. Ramen is typically high in sodium, and eating too much of it has been linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even hypertension.
So, he decided to create an instant ramen product that would be a low-sodium and salt-free alternative, and it has been a huge success! To ensure that the packets don’t taste bland, he uses a secret recipe combination of spices. In addition, his available flavors (Lamb Stew, Chicken Fajita, Seafood Gumbo, and Chicken Taco) create a variety of desirable options.
Coming up with the idea
In 1996, Ron was sentenced to three years in Donovan Correctional Facility in San Diego for possession of a controlled substance. While there, he worked as a prison cook and says he noticed that most inmates would eat three or four packs of ramen a day.
He also saw that ramen has become more popular than cigarettes as the most popular form of currency in prisons. So, he decided that when he was released from prison, he would launch his own ramen company.
It took him a few years to get if off the ground, but in 2009, he was finally able to launch the company. And guess who Ron’s first clients were? You guessed it – prison commissaries! In fact, to date, he is the distributor to several commissaries licensed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and privatized jails.
A changed man
Ron is changed man in many ways. Now 54-years old, he avoids trouble with the law, and is committed entrepreneur and chef that is 100% focused on taking his food products to the next level. Based in Los Angeles, California, his company supplies instant ramen noodles to various parts of the United States and also internationally to Canada and several African nations.
As a way of giving back to the company, his goal is also to prioritize hiring ex-felons who struggle to find jobs after being released from prison. Ron says he is very thankful for the second chance that he was given, and believes that other ex-felons deserve a second chance as well.