Amazon is exploring a cutting-edge food technology for home delivery, as the online retailers continues to find new ways to get into the $700 billion U.S. grocery business.
According to Reuters, Amazon is looking into selling ready-to-eat dishes as soon as next year. The dishes would not require refrigeration and could be offered cheaply compared with take-out from a restaurant.
The new technology— first developed for the U.S. military to produce prepared meals that do not need refrigeration — is known as microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS), and 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, and can sit on a shelf for a year. It is being brought to market by a venture-backed startup called 915 Labs, based in Denver.
If MATS comes to fruition, it could be a major step forward for Amazon as it looks to grab hold of more grocery customers shifting toward 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. In addition, it would complement Amazon’s planned $13.7-billion purchase of Whole Foods Market Inc and Amazon’s checkout-free convenience store, which is in the test stage.
“They obviously see that this is a potential disruptor and an ability to get to a private brand uniqueness that they’re looking for,” said Greg Spragg, a former Walmart Stores Inc. executive and now head of a startup working with MATS technology. “They will test these products with their consumers and get a sense of where they would go.”
MATS is just one way Amazon is searching for an edge in the grocery business. The company has also filed for a trademark for cook-it-yourself meal kits – like Blue Apron – but has not yet detailed its plans for ready-to-eat meal delivery.