Amazon is making a bold move in the food delivery industry. Their latest acquisition is a food technology which allows food to be sterilized quickly using pressurized water and microwave heating—a kind of sterilization food preservation technology. The food retains its flavor and nutrients and can be kept on the shelf for up to a year. The bold technology would be a perfect fit for Amazon’s food delivery model. The food can be prepared, stocked on the shelves and delivered to customers even without the need for refrigeration.
This sterilization food preservation technology was originally developed for the U.S. military by researchers from Washington State University. It was brought to market by 915 Labs after a successful venture fundraising. It is called the microwave-assisted thermal sterilization or MATS.
Details on the Sterilization Food Preservation Technology
The MATS technology was an offshoot of research efforts by the U.S. Army’s Natick laboratories. It was meant to improve the food quality as well as lengthen the shelf life of soldier rations. (Washington State University received the research funding for the MATS project more than a decade ago.)
Food Chain Safety picked up the sterilization food preservation technology before going through some financial problems in 2013. 915 Labs was founded in 2014 and acquired what remained of Food Chain Safety. 915 Labs has since licensed the technology and patents from Washington State University and has now asked approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for marketing MATS. In addition, 915 Labs has also been selling MATS machines to the Australian government and various Asian food companies.
Amazon Purchases Tech for Food Storage
Amazon first got interested in MATS at the SIAL Paris food trade show, after which they asked 915 Labs to their headquarters in Seattle. Early this year, Amazon sent representatives to meet with Juming Tang—the chair of Washington State University’s Biological Systems Engineering Department—and who was instrumental in developing the said sterilization food preservation technology.
In March, Amazon joined other companies based in Seattle, as well as the university, for the Industrial Microwave Alliance’s inaugural meeting. The Alliance’s mission is to help accelerate the transfer of technology for microwave-based food safety.
There are mixed reactions to the Amazon acquisition of this technology. For one, Amazon Prime shopping club caters to the high-income market. It is important to note that the technology presents a cheaper alternative to other long-storage food solutions. Packaged food may not fit their customers’ needs. Likewise, it is important to remember that along with the acquisition of the MATS technology, Amazon has also been hiring people to deliver meals to homes. Thus, the direction which the company is going to take in the long term comes into question.
The Direction and Future of Amazon’s Bold Move
Without a doubt, this new and bold food processing system will significantly increase food shelf life. It can also turn out to be a good complement to Amazon’s $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods. This case may likewise be good for the grocery business. Amazon might be able to leverage the said innovative technology into a useful advantage. It does not pose as a hindrance to those who want fresh eggs, vegetables or salads.
Industry insiders agree that this sterilization food preservation technology can be a potentially disruptive technology and change the way food is handled, sold as well as delivered. If for this bold reason alone, then it would be interesting to watch what direction Amazon takes with MATS.