The world's biggest online retailer Amazon.com Inc is exploring a technology first developed for the U.S. military, known as microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or MATS, to produce tasty prepared meals that do not need refrigeration, to be implemented soon.
The method involves placing sealed packages of food in pressurized water and heating them with microwaves for several minutes. The dishes retain their natural flavor and texture. Prepared this way, the meals can sit on a shelf for a year. Amazon want sell ready-to-eat dishes such as beef stew and a vegetable frittata as soon as next year. Delivering meals would build on the company's AmazonFresh service, which has been delivering groceries to customers' homes for a decade. MATS technology grew out of efforts by the U.S. Army's Natick laboratories more than a decade ago to improve food quality for soldiers in combat.
Amazon learned about MATS technology last year at the SIAL Paris food trade show. In March, this year, Amazon joined the university's researchers and other companies in Seattle for the inaugural meeting of the Industrial Microwave Alliance. The group's mission is to "accelerate technology transfer of microwave-based food safety." 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. This is also a potential advantage when it comes to Amazon’s efforts in the area of on-demand meal delivery, where it’s already making pilot efforts to compete with dedicated companies in the field like Blue Apron.