photo by John MacDougall—AFP via Getty Images

Retailer betting military-style meal packs are ready for a mainstream audience

Tim Nelson
August 14, 2017

With its domination of every other retail category firmly established, Amazon has its eyes on securing a slice of the $700 billion groceries market in 2017. While its recent purchase of Whole Foods is one way Jeff Bezos & co. can bring quinoa to customers, it looks like Amazon will rely on a little something called “microwave assisted thermal sterilization” to try and undercut its meal delivery competitors.  

According to a report from Reuters, Amazon is partnering with Denver-based microwave-tech company 915 labs to bring MAST-meals  to the mainstream. Based on MRE’s (meals ready to eat), these no-refrigeration meals are used by the U.S. Military and the kind of doomsday preppersthat bury gold in their backyard.

You’d be forgiven for assuming the beef stew and vegetable frittata Amazon plans to roll out sometime in 2018 are nothing more than an assortment of processed ingredients. But those involved promise that cooking in a heated, pressurized water with microwaves acts to sterilize the food while preserving its nutritional value, texture, and—most importantly— flavor. Those claims have yet to be verified, however, and these meals still have yet to receive approval for sale from the FDA. 

Even after the science is settled, skeptics wary of Amazon’s approach will likely remain. These pre-prepped meals will be sold and delivered by AmazonFresh, a brand seemingly at odds with the tech-heavy cooking process. As Bentley Hall, head of organic grocery delivery service Good Eggs, aptly puts it, “I struggle to see how this solution addresses an actual consumer want or need better than fresh, prepared meals." 

Of course, a company with as much R&D funding as Amazon can afford to take a chance on an unconventional approach to eating that might not pan out. And with rumors of a Bezos-backed meal kit service already causing Blue Apron shares to slide, this seems to be just one facet of a diverse dining portfolio. Either way, it’s nice to know that Amazon is making sure we’ll stay well-fed after nuclear war inevitably drives us underground. 

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