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Amazon.com is looking to develop shelf-stable ready-to-eat meals using technology developed for the U.S. military, Reuters has reported.
Dishes such as beef stew and a vegetable frittata could begin shipping to customers as early as next year via the Seattle-based company’s AmazonFresh service, the news outlet said. They would be made with microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) technology, an innovation developed by Washington State University researchers and brought to market by 915 Labs, a startup in Denver.
Processing food with MATS is “dramatically different” from retort processing, which involves placing packaged foods in pressurized cookers at high temperatures for up to an hour, according to 915 Labs' website. To mask the damage caused by the prolonged exposure to heat, salt, flavor, texture and color enhancers, along with other unnatural ingredients, must be added.
MATS, on the other hand, simultaneously immerses packaged food in pressurized hot water and heats with microwave energy at a frequency of 915 megahertz, eliminating pathogens and spoilage micro-organisms in minutes. It also preserves nutrients, color, texture and flavor while providing up to a year's lifespan on shelves, making the meals suitable for storage and delivery.
“915 Labs offers a solution that meets the needs of Big Food today and has the potential to contribute in a very real way to improving the global food ecosystem,” said Michael Locatis, 915 Labs' CEO.
Amazon already has been getting into meal kits, but being able to deliver prepared meals that require no refrigeration could solve a major supply chain issue that Amazon and many other ecommerce-only grocers face: getting products from point A to point B without any deterioration in quality or taste.