Retail

Published: May 8, 2020 | Updated: May 8, 2020

Howdy Mr Lee! ‘Noodle King’ enters US market after securing further £1.75m in under a week

Damien Lee, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Mr Lee’s Noodles.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Dorset’s very own ‘Noodle King’ has gone Stateside.

Mr Lee’s Pure Foods debuted in the United States this week with its award-winning instant noodles now on the shelves of 487 Whole Foods Market stores in 42 states.

The launch marks a major expansion for the Bournemouth-based brand which only launched five years ago.

It came just days after it hit its £1.75m funding target on investment platform Seedrs.

Damien Lee, the company’s inspirational Founder and Chief Executive Officer, said: “I can still remember over four years ago when I told the first team members this brand will be ‘going global not local’ and we hadn’t even made our first cup of noodles.

“It has been my dream since Day One to launch the brand in the US and now it’s a reality.

We can now truly say that we operate our businesses, manufacture and sell on three continents of the world – UK/Europe, Australia and North America.

“Our first-ever unit sold in the US was in North Carolina and a Chicken Curry Laksa – the first Mr Lee’s of many to come.

“Thank you to all involved and, especially, to the ever hard-working and passionate Mr Lee’s team who have made this happen.

“Dream it, make it, live it.”

The noodle recipes in the States are available in four authentic flavours: Coconut Chicken Laksa, Tai Chi Chicken, Hong Kong Street-Style Beef, and vegan option, Zen Garden Vegetable.

US manufacturing and packaging is in California.

Ready in just three minutes, Mr Lee’s Noodles only require hot water to cook to perfection.

They contain no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or monosodium glutamat (MSG) and are gluten-free.

The noodles are also one of the lowest in sodium/salt, sugar (Sugarwise certified), saturated fat and calories in the market.

They have secured more than 50 industry awards and accolades for food quality, taste and innovation across the world.

Mr Lee’s has experienced a huge surge in demand since the Covid-19 crisis began.

It has seen a 918 per cent increase in e-commerce revenue and a 924 per cent increase in new users to its website (March 20 to April 20, 2020, compared to Feb 17 to March 19, 2020).

The latest Seedrs campaign hit the £1.75m investment target less than a week after launch.

In addition to 220 investors from its loyal customer base. Mr Lee’s also received significant backing from global food industry investor, Henry Soesanto, Chief Executive Officer of Monde Nissin Corporation.

The international food company, headquartered in Asia, is known for acquiring Quorn in 2015.

Other notable investors in Mr Lee’s include Dr Bart Sayle, Former Head of Innovation at Unilever; Chris Fung, Former Chief Executive Officer at Crussh Fitfood and angel support from Nathalie Morrison, Chief Executive Officer at Hay Hill Wealth Management.

The latest  funding will be used to drive Mr Lee’s international growth, following the successful launch in the US.

Additional resources will also be spent on further developing its e-commerce offering and full-service hot noodle kiosk vending machines as well as the launch of its new instant Congee rice porridge.

The company has now secured a total of £6.5m funding across four rounds on Seedrs.

Mr Lee’s is the brainchild of Damien Lee, a seasoned entrepreneur who built his own companies from the ground up across Australia, UK, Singapore, France and other countries.

His addiction to business came to a halt in 2014 when he was diagnosed with stage 4 chest and stomach cancer and given weeks to live.

After staging a miraculous comeback, Damien followed his firm belief in ‘you are what you eat’ and launched a guilt-free version of his favourite snack – instant noodles.

In July 2017 Damien, who is engaged and has two sons, aged 13 and 11, was diagnosed with a form of neck and throat cancer entirely unconnected to his previous illness.

He has undergone 75 chemo and radiotherapy treatments as well as three surgeries in the past six years.

In January 2019 he was told his cancer was terminal and that he had a few months to live.

Ten months later he was crowned UK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year at the NatWest Great British Entrepreneurs Awards.

Last month Damien announced his company was donating thousands of cups of noodles to NHS staff.

He also received rave reviews after appearing on Channel 5’s Rich House Poor House, swapping his life with single mum Larissa.

The programme gave an insight into Damien’s entrepreneurial life as well as his day to day battle with cancer.