Amazon looks at army rations tech for a profitable ready meals recipe
Amazon.com Inc is exploring a technology first developed for the US military to produce tasty, prepared meals that do not need refrigeration, as it looks for new ways to muscle into the $700bn (€592bn) US grocery business.
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-outs 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 towards quick and easy meal options at home.
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 $13.7bn (€11.6bn) 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 sterilisation, 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 flavour and texture, the company said. They also can sit on a shelf for a year, making them suitable for Amazon's storage and delivery business model.
"It obviously sees this is a potential disruptor and an ability to get to a private brand uniqueness that it's looking for," said Greg Spragg, a former Wal-Mart Stores Inc executive and now head of a startup working with MATS technology. "It will test these products with its consumers, and get a sense of where they would go."
Amazon declined to comment.