June 17th, 2019

MATS Technology – A New Wave of Innovation

Posted in Product Innovation, R&D Technology

MATS technology could be the next game changer in packaged foods

MATS technology

Photo courtesy of foodnavigator-asia.com

Microwave assisted thermal sterilization, or MATS technology, could be the next big wave of innovation to hit packaged food. It promises to preserve the nutrients, color, texture and flavor of foods — while providing a shelf life equivalent to conventionally processed foods.

This seems like a pretty lofty goal, but it might be closer to a reality than we think. Let’s take a look at the MATS technology and how it might help to change the landscape of packaged foods as we know them.

What is MATS

MATS MAPS

Photo courtesy of foodnavigator-asia.com

As stated above, MATS stands for “microwave assisted thermal sterilization.” 915 Labs, the exclusive developer of this technology, believes it can solve one of the most ardent challenges facing the food industry today: providing consumers with high quality, natural, and additive-free packaged foods. On paper this seems great, but how exactly does it work?

MATS technology immerses packaged food in pressurized hot water while simultaneously heating with microwave energy at a frequency of 915 megahertz. Unlike retort processing, MATS can eliminate pathogens and spoilage microorganisms in a matter of minutes, rather than hours. As we know, the longer food is cooked under high heat and pressure the more it degrades the color, flavor, and nutrient bioavailability.

You could see then, how if MATS can deliver on its promise, our expectations of shelf-stable foods could change dramatically.

What About Pasteurization?

Clean Label Preservation

Conveniently enough, MATS units also provide microwave assisted pasteurization technology (MAPS) without any additional equipment.  This results in restaurant-quality, ready-to-eat foods and beverages with a shelf life of up to 12 weeks.

The extended shelf-life for the likes of prepared foods and ready-to-eat meals, beverages, vegetables, fruits, dips, sauces and salsas means less waste, higher quality, and greater availability. This can become especially important in food desserts, where convenience stores and bodegas serve as the primary grocery centers for a large population.

What Other Benefits Can MATS/MAPS Offer

Aside from increased quality and shelf-life, the technology can also assist in the clean label mission. By extending shelf-life through mechanical means, MATS can reduce the amount of preservatives and flavor enhancers needed to make packaged foods safer and tastier. Think of needing less sugar, salt, and artificial flavors in foods because the natural flavors haven’t been cooked out.

bowl-cherries-chicken-936611

These benefits could also parlay into school food programs, nursing homes, cafeterias, and meal kit enterprises.

What’s Next for MATS Technology?

E-commerce providers like Amazon, Alibaba, and Jet are especially interested in this technology as they try to break into the prepared foods market. The ability to create high-quality, shelf-stable meals that are safe to eat for 12 months plays directly into their supply chain strengths.

The interest from these companies in MATS technology is not passive. Amazon was an early investor in 915 Labs for use in its AmazonFresh brand. Many observers are connecting its interest in this technology with the acquisition of Whole Foods markets. The digital and brick-and-mortar avenues could offer Amazon a large advantage in the distribution of ready-to-eat and meal kit foods.

AmazonFresh

Photo courtesy of IMD.org

The U.S. Military has also been a long supporter of MATS technology as a way to provide more nutrient dense, portable meals as a replacement for the classic MRE (meal ready to eat).

Summary

As MATS/MAPS technology continues to merge into the packaged food realm, we need to be ready for the potentials that come along with it. Consumers have driven the demand for clean label options, along with healthier foods. MATS could be the bridge that brings fresh tasting, long lasting, healthier foods to shelves and refrigerators nationwide. It’s important that packaged food producers become intimately acquainted with the technology as consumer demand could soon drive a global change in quality expectations.

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June 3rd, 2019

What’s the Story with Za’atar?

Posted in Consumer Trends, Food Trends, Product Innovation

Za’atar makes waves with vibrant flavors

Za'atar

Za’atar continues to grow aggressively in popularity throughout the country, but it’s still far from well known. Currently early in the adoption stage, za’atar has, however, been featured heavily in culinary and lifestyle magazines.

You can hear all about za’atar in publications like Specialty Food Magazine, Fine Cooking, and even the Boston Globe. But what’s all the fuss about? What makes za’atar so special?

Let’s check it out.

What is Za’atar?

Za’atar is both a Middle Eastern herb that’s very rare and almost never exported (so you likely won’t find any here in the states) and a spice blend. For the purposes of this blog, when we refer to za’atar it’s the spice blend we speak of.

Za'atar

You can find za’atar in dried (most common), oil-based (more common), and fresh (least common) formats in most grocery stores. Za’atar is usually made from a mixture of spices like oregano, marjoram, thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt. There are many different styles, like chimichurri, but some combination of the previously listed ingredients is always present.

What’s it Good With?

This is really what makes za’atar special. Its flavor profile can adapt to lots of different cuisines and applications. It works as a dry rub, marinade, sauce, salad dressing, finishing spice, salsa, snack topping, or pretty much any other application you can imagine.

Its Middle Eastern heritage finds it most commonly applied to items like hummus, lamb, and vegetable salads, but this pigeonholes its versatility. I find za’atar equally delicious on proteins like chicken or tofu, on crackers, cheese, and even fruit like pears and apples.

Za'atar

The point is, za’atar has a friendly, exciting flavor that plays well with many other foods.

How Can I Take Advantage of Za’atar?

Well, that of course depends on what you’re in the business of making. Try chicken wings with spicy za’atar sauce, or a zesty pizza made with za’atar marinara. A citrus za’atar glaze goes great on chicken or pork, or a fire roasted green chile and za’atar smothered bison burger.

Whatever you decide, you can rest assured za’atar will grab the curiosity of your guests with its unique, vibrant blend of flavors.

Cheers!

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