Will military tech give Amazon an edge delivering packaged meals?
One of the hurdles to effective, profitable fresh grocery delivery is that some products require refrigeration in storage and while being delivered — for safety’s sake, not to mention the regulations. But Amazon.com is now partnering with a startup that purports to make shelf-stable, easily shippable, pre-packaged meals that don’t lose their quality in the preservation process.
The technology, called MATS (microwave-assisted thermal sterilization) uses a combination of pressure and heat to preserve food products while allowing them to maintain their nutrients and palatability, according to Reuters. MATS was pioneered for use by the U.S. military in an attempt to come up with a higher-quality replacement for the often-derided MREs (meals ready to eat) provided to deployed soldiers. Amazon is planning on making the products available as soon as next year.
While a “fresh” TV dinner might be safer and easier to ship than certain other fresh products, it may not be what most AmazonFresh customers are looking for. However, Amazon could be pursuing a different demographic with the products, rather than using the next-gen pre-packaged meals to redefine “fresh” to AmazonFresh customers. Increased durability could allow them to more easily set up services to ship food globally.
Another thought is that the company could have plans to integrate the new meals into in-store offerings at Whole Foods, after the acquisition. Whole Foods had a run of bad publicity towards the end of 2016 due to food safety concerns over its fresh meals which led to the temporary closure of one of its kitchens.
Just as is the case with its moves into the brick-and-mortar grocery space, Amazon appears to be taking multiple approaches to the grocery delivery world at once. In addition to pioneering new forms of deliverable groceries, Amazon is also making moves into the pre-prepped meal kit space.
News recently broke that Amazon may be quietly beta testing delivery of its own cook-it-yourself meal kits as part of AmazonFresh, according to GeekWire. A user in Seattle reported the meal kits beginning to appear in his search results a week or two ago.
- Amazon looks to new food technology for home delivery – Reuters
- Amazon wants to continue testing grocery stores without human cashiers when it owns Whole Foods – Business Insider
- Should grocers back away from prepared meals? – RetailWire
- Amazon is already selling pre-packaged ‘Meal Kits’ as it bites into service from Blue Apron and others – GeekWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Could MATS technology offer a solution to the costly delivery of fresh food? To whom do you see such offerings appealing? Do you see other applications for ready-to-eat MATS items, as in-store offerings for example?