To produce tasty prepared meals that do not need refrigeration, Amazon.com is looking for military new ways to muscle into the $700 billion US grocery business such technology first developed for the US .
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.
If the cutting-edge food technology comes to fruition, and Amazon implements it on a large scale, it would be a major step forward for the company as it looks to grab hold of more grocery customers shifting toward quick and easy meal options at home.
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, a five-hour drive from Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, received US funding and became the research hub for MATS.
915 Labs said it formed in 2014 and acquired the assets of a business called Food Chain Safety, which previously was working on MATS before facing financial trouble in 2013.
915 Labs also licensed the original patents from the university, its chief executive Michael Locatis said, and its MATS dishes are now pending US Food and Drug Administration approval.
In addition to ongoing work with the US military, the company has sold machines to the Australian government and to food companies in Asia.
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 pressurised 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.