The world’s largest online retailer is looking into high-tech food packaging as it invades and disrupts the grocery industry, according to a new report by Reuters.
The technology, developed by Washington State University for military use, is known as “microwave assisted thermal sterilization.” It’s a way to package food that’s shelf-stable, preserves taste well, and does not require refrigeration. The work was funded, in part, by eight major food companies, including Nestlé, PepsiCo, Del Monte, and General Mills, and caught the interest of militaries in the US and Australia (pdf).
For most traditional processed foods that are packaged the sealed packs are placed in pressure cookers for about an hour, until the bacteria are removed, Reuters reports. This can adversely affect taste, and the heat can burn off some nutrients, too. With the new technology, the food retains its flavor and texture better, and it can keep for up to a year. The process has been in development for more than 15 years and involves sticking food packs into pressurized water and heating them with microwaves for a few minutes.
No food company has yet used the technology on a mass scale. Now Amazon is considering changing that, and for obvious reasons. Food that has a long shelf life and no need for refrigeration is ideal for the company if it hopes to shoehorn its way into the food business and provide quick-and-easy microwavable options. It would allow the company to store the food in its existing network of warehouses. Ever since Amazon purchased Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion in June, speculation about the online retailer disrupting the food delivery market has been on the rise.