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The Military Businesses United States Technology

Military Tech Could Be Amazon's Secret To Cheap, Non-Refrigerated Food (cnbc.com) 80

According to CNBC, Amazon is exploring a technology first developed for the U.S. military to produce tasty prepared meals that do not need refrigeration, as it looks for new ways to muscle into the $700 billion U.S. grocery business. From the report: The world's biggest online retailer has discussed selling ready-to-eat dishes such as beef stew and a vegetable frittata as soon as next year, officials at the startup firm marketing the technology told Reuters. The dishes would be easy to stockpile and ship because they do not require refrigeration and could be offered quite cheaply compared with take-out from a restaurant. Delivering meals would build on the company's AmazonFresh service, which has been delivering groceries to customers' homes for a decade. It could also complement Amazon's planned $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market and Amazon's checkout-free convenience store, which is in the test stage.

The pioneering food-prep tech, known as microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or MATS, was developed by researchers at Washington State University, and is being brought to market by a venture-backed startup called 915 Labs, based in Denver. The method involves placing sealed packages of food in pressurized water and heating them with microwaves for several minutes, according to 915 Labs. Unlike traditional processing methods, where packages are in pressure cookers for up to an hour until both bacteria and nutrients are largely gone, the dishes retain their natural flavor and texture, the company said. They also can sit on a shelf for a year, which would make them suitable for Amazon's storage and delivery business model.

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Military Tech Could Be Amazon's Secret To Cheap, Non-Refrigerated Food

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  • Oxymoron (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Friday August 11, 2017 @06:20PM (#54995297)

    "Delivering meals would build on the company's AmazonFresh service.."

    With the difference that it would be AmazonNonFresh Service.

    • Actually it would be "AmazonItWasFreshWhenWePackedIt Service".

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Fresh ways of making a profit.
  • by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @06:26PM (#54995365)

    Anyone who's had to deal with MREs knows that nothing good will come of this... (nor will anything come out of you, but that's a different problem).

    • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @06:41PM (#54995491)
      So...Meals Rejected by EBay?
    • The Canadian ones, the IMPs, are OK I guess. I used to be able to buy them for 5$ at the surplus, they were expired but still fine. I used them in my bike camping tours. They were a lot of fun to lug around. They were all quite edible, some even tasty (franks and beans!), but I did poop like a rabbit for a few days. A constipated rabbit.

      • I did poop like a rabbit for a few days. A constipated rabbit.

        Stress induced constipation is already a problem for soldiers, so it never made sense to me how they made it even worse by feeding us rations devoid of fiber. I tried to keep myself unclogged by buying fruit and veggies from the locals, but others just stole from the trees and fields. I doubt if that was good for "winning hearts and minds". How hard would it be to include some prunes?

    • I've eaten MREs, and I've eaten K-rations. MREs are certainly better than K-rations, and they are probably nice when you're out in a dirty foxhole somewhere... but they're not exactly haute cuisine. Unless your point of comparison is a Walmart-branded TV dinner, it's hard to see how anyone would want to pay for this.

      • Excuse me - I've eaten C-Rations, not K-Rations.

        • Excuse me - I've eaten C-Rations, not K-Rations.

          If you see Kay, tell her that meals with any sort of nutritional value develop an acute deliciousness after about 48 hrs without eating.

        • MREs are better than C-Rats, but I would prefer a Walmart TV dinner over either. I don't think people will pay Amazon to eat MREs. When I ate MREs, I was paid to eat them.

          Semper Fi

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

          Just to be clear https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]. The difference in where they are consumed, on the battle line or in rear areas during rest. So the modern equivalent is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org] and for further interest https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] (I chose that video specifically because there is a difference between men and women and I found her to be more entertaining than the typical prepper https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org], so screw you google).

        • Excuse me - I've eaten C-Rations, not K-Rations.

          That makes more sense. Since K-rations were retired in 1948, you'd have to be pretty damned old to have eaten them. C rations were retired in 1958, you sure it wasn't MCIs (Meal Combat Individual) you ate? They were the successor to C-rations and the immediate predecessor to MREs and very similar to C-rations. They weren't completely retired until years after their replacement by MREs in 1981.

          • by fnj ( 64210 )

            Since K-rations were retired in 1948, you'd have to be pretty damned old to have eaten them.

            I resemble that remark, since I would only have to be 17 years older than my present age of 70 to have been a possible K-ration eater.

          • It's possible. I wasn't the one in the army - my dad was, and he was the one who referred to them as C-rations.

            During the 60s and 70s, he worked in a number of different support-type admin roles, first in the army proper and later in the full-time reserves. Those rations lasted next to forever; but they were still required to rotate their stocks every so often - and when the new stuff came in, the old stuff was supposed to be tossed (though it hadn't expired). My dad would bring home maybe a half-dozen indi

          • Not necessarily. There's a guy on youtube who finds old military rations, unpacks them, and then eats them. It's surprising what's still out there unopened. He tried US C rations from the Vietnam war, and US and UK rations from the second world war. Even an American civil war hardtack cracker. There is something morbidly fascinating about watching a guy sniff old rations, dry heave, take a bite, claim it tastes OK, then the after-taste makes his throat burn, and then take another bite anyway just to be sure
      • Just because they use the same sterilization technique doesn't mean they will taste like military rations. I imagine there are a lot of other reasons (related to cost and general indifference to whether it tastes good) that the military rations are not great.
    • I always assumed there was a reason that MREs always came with a bottle of hot sauce. Covers up the taste.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Anyone who's had to deal with MREs knows that nothing good will come of this... (nor will anything come out of you, but that's a different problem).

      Or the alternative, Amazon is now literally selling Spam.

  • by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @06:30PM (#54995399)
    Several times in fact, various flavors. They actually aren't bad. Until you're on day 4 with the same damned fettuccine alfredo, then you start thinking of that hot girlfriend who couldn't boil water without messing up.

    I cook. I enjoy cooking. I use spices to cut the salt and fat, and most people complement me on my cooking. I can't imagine any prepackaged meal being either A) better than I could make myself; or B) Healthier than I can make myself.

    I can see C) faster than I can make myself; and D) humping it in a desert and wanna eat

    / protip: To cook pasta faster boil water
    // then put the water into ice cube trays
    /// voila! Next time you need boiled water just take it out of the freezer
    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      Several times in fact, various flavors. They actually aren't bad. Until you're on day 4 with the same damned fettuccine alfredo, then you start thinking of that hot girlfriend who couldn't boil water without messing up.

      Not hot. Not going to be your girlfriend. Or boyfriend, if that's how you swing. But I have messed up boiling water for noodles, my blood alcohol level at the time may be related.

      I cook. I enjoy cooking. I use spices to cut the salt and fat, and most people complement me on my cooking.

      Me too, if they find me cooking they say "I think you could use some help with that".

      I can't imagine any prepackaged meal being either A) better than I could make myself; or B) Healthier than I can make myself. I can see C) faster than I can make myself; and D) humping it in a desert and wanna eat

      If you include my natural tendency to make stuff with lots of fats and sugar because they taste good, I'm going with e) all of the above. Seriously, it takes a chef to make a salad taste good. Junk food and lots of toppings? Even I can't screw up t

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      Several times in fact, various flavors. They actually aren't bad. Until you're on day 4 with the same damned fettuccine alfredo, then you start thinking of that hot girlfriend who couldn't boil water without messing up.

      I cook. I enjoy cooking. I use spices to cut the salt and fat, and most people complement me on my cooking. I can't imagine any prepackaged meal being either A) better than I could make myself; or B) Healthier than I can make myself.

      I can see C) faster than I can make myself; and D) humping i

  • Irradiated food (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @06:37PM (#54995453)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_irradiation [wikipedia.org]

    Some years ago, a processor was test marketing prepackaged irradiated food. They went to great lengths to produce some high quality meals. A few of us went on a week long hike and I was responsible for buying the food for myself and my brother. Everyone else suffered with macaroni and cheese or some freeze-dried hiking meals. My bro and I had beef bourguignon and similar dishes. We were not well liked by the end of the hike.

    • by bn-7bc ( 909819 )
      Envy ias not nice, you and your brother did better planing cudos, just one question tho it migh be redundant, where you and your bruther food budget for that trip compaable to the other hikers or where you #thos gys with the expspensive stuff, thad dit not want to eat the other crap" btw I support your way of doing it, a good meail at the end of the day sort of makes the day better. Btw the qoute above was not my opuinion but it`s kind of easy for people ho has had (crap) foo for a week to hatte on people o
  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @06:38PM (#54995467)
    MREs today are so much better than the original dehydrated pork patty and dehydrated fruit cocktail. Not to mention the original 4 hot dogs or meatballs in barbecue sauce. The biggest problem with the providing tasty food is having to smash it flat in those little packets. They have found ways of including far more enjoyable fare. If they packed it in a more appeasing manor they may be able to turn out decent meals.
    • If they packed it in a more appeasing manor they may be able to turn out decent meals.

      If you're packing your food in any kind of house, you probably don't have to worry about MRE's.

      And why you want the house to appease you, I can't pretend to understand. Smart Home of some sort, obviously....

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      MREs are trying to achieve two goals, if you haven't eaten for a week you're ready to eat anything. But to keep a decent stack in an economic fashion you'll want to rotate out the oldest and have your soldiers eat it without a rebellion rather than write it off as a loss. I've eaten some of the freeze dried stuff they use here in Norway, it's okay for the occasional meal. But it doesn't come close to the fresh meal you could bring for the first couple days of any trip.

  • by will_die ( 586523 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @07:43PM (#54995857) Homepage
    This is not for the Whole Food food delivery market or for the already prepared ingredients delivered with a recipe, such as blue apron. They are doing other things for that and the people that are paying a huge premium for those services are not going to purchase something like this.
    This however works great to try to grab the business lunch menu and even the emergency preparation segment.
    Just getting a few percent of the business people to purchase a few meals to store at the desk and get them to eat one a week would be a worth while market.
  • by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Friday August 11, 2017 @07:50PM (#54995897) Homepage Journal

    I thought this technology had existed for many decades already. It's called a "can". Easy-to-open and lightweight plastic packaging makes things more convenient and cheaper to ship, but it's not a fundamental game changer.

    • by antdude ( 79039 )

      It bugs me that companies stopped using cans like Ensure. :(

    • Tell that to soldiers going out an a couple of days patrol. Cans are not as light as you think they are.

      They also occupy a lot of extra space due to their shape. You can pack plastic bags right together with little space between them but there will always be lots of empty space between cans. When I'm bringing home shopping it's a lot easier bringing stuff that's packed in boxes because I'm able to fit more in my backpack and into bags. (And the packaging is lighter too. A tetra pack of soup is lighter than

      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 )

        I wasn't trying to claim that the can was perfect and couldn't be improved. Clearly cans have evolved over time, current soda and beer cans being a perfect example of this. Of course they could stand to be lighter and pack better (but there's nothing stopping the manufacture of cuboid cans to solve the packing problem). I was just saying that this "secret" tech is really just an evolution of something we already had, not the revolution the summary makes it out to be.

  • where packages are in pressure cookers for up to an hour until both bacteria and nutrients are largely gone

    Until the nutrients are largely gone? Doesn't this sort of defeat the purpose of having food?

    On the other hand, this explains so much about shelf-stable food...

    • The implied meaning is micronutrients, i.e. vitamins and enzymes and maybe the more digestible forms of minerals. Macronutrients - proteins, fats, and carbohydrates - may be degraded by use of a pressure cooker, but won't lose much of their caloric value. In some cases, the cooking makes the foods more digestible by breaking down fibers.
    • where packages are in pressure cookers for up to an hour until both bacteria and nutrients are largely gone

      Until the nutrients are largely gone? Doesn't this sort of defeat the purpose of having food?

      On the other hand, this explains so much about shelf-stable food...

      It was a hypobole. What they meant to say, until the taste is largely gone. Or until the food is British cousine.

  • I wonder is Amazon trying a new variant of the retort pouch developed in the 1970's that became immensely popular in Japan by the late 1980's?

  • It's people.
  • by careysub ( 976506 ) on Saturday August 12, 2017 @12:57PM (#54999199)

    The bottom line here is that Amazon is introducing a retort pouch food product line - a technology that has been on the market for 40 years. It has been extremely popular around the world, and is found in U.S. products (I buy boxed retort pouch products at Costco all the time) though for some reason the U.S. public has preferred canned foods.

    TFA calls this "the cutting-edge food technology" which is overselling it a bit. MATS is one of several advanced retorting systems for preparing the pouches, and has been in use in various forms for decades, and is similar in performance to other technologies like PATS (pressure assisted thermal sterilization) - a form of pressure cooking. In 2006 a patent was issued for a particular refinement of MATS, using a specific frequency (915 MHZ), which is being aggressively promoted by the start-up patent licensee 915Labs, but it is not clear this is really a big advance in a well established industry.

    • It may sound like a retort pouch, but I think the food processing technology to put the food in the bag might be new.

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