Amazon explores long life food tech

15 August 2017

Amazon is studying a technology first developed for the US military to produce prepared meals that do not need refrigeration.

Michael Locatis, chief executive of start-up food processing provider 915 Labs, told CNN that his company had been in discussion with Amazon to potentially use their new technology to produce complete meals that could be stored for long periods without refrigeration.

"We are still in the discussion phase with Amazon but the possibility of selling ready-to-eat dishes could come as soon as next year," he said.

"We offer a solution that meets the needs of modern consumers and have the potential to contribute in a very real way to improving the global food market."

The process, Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilisation (MATS), was developed by researchers at Washington State University and involves putting sealed packages of food in pressurised containers of water and heating them with a microwave for several minutes until cooked and sterile. 

MATS technology grew out of efforts by the US Army’s Natick Laboratories more than a decade ago to improve food quality for soldiers in combat. Washington State University received US government funding and became the research hub for MATS. 

Formed in 2014, 915 Labs licenced the original patents from the university and its MATS dishes are now pending US Food and Drug Administration approval. 

Using the technology, prepared meals like beef stew and vegetable frittata, which would normally require heating up in a microwave, could be consumed as soon as they are opened with no preparation.

915 Labs said the method would ensure the food kept its natural flavour, texture and nutrients for up to a year, unlike other processes that changed the texture and taste of ready-to-eat meals once they had been microwaved. 

Amazon declined to comment on their recent discussions with 915 Labs. 

The e-commerce giant’s push into the food business has gained momentum this year having recently announced plants to acquire Whole Foods Market for $13.7m. 

Greg Spragg, CEO of a start-up Solve for Food working with MATS technology and former Wal-Mart executive, told Reuters that MATS technology suited Amazon’s storage and delivery business. 

“They obviously see that this is a potential disruptor and an ability to get to a private brand uniqueness that they’re looking for,” he said. 

“They will test these products with their consumers and get a sense of where would go.”

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