ALBANY, Ore. – Mountain House, a division of OFD Foods, Inc., announced Tuesday that the shelf life for all the company’s entrees in cans and pouches increased from 25 years to 30 years.
The results came from research conducted by a multi-disciplinary team of experts that tested numerous Mountain House recipes in both pouches and #10 cans. All items were at least 30 years old and had been stored in ambient temperatures in various warehouses over the years.
Consumers will begin seeing this change reflected in the ‘Best Buy’ date on Mountain House packaging by the end of the year, if not sooner.
Kenny Larson, a company spokesman, said the new data retroactively affects all pouches and cans made with the Mountain House label since 1986, but does not apply to desserts and snacks packaged without an oxygen absorber such as ice cream, and cheesecake bites.
“As far as the nutritional values, all of the macro nutrients (calories, fats, carbs, protein) will still be there,” Larson added. “There might be some lessening in the more volatile micro nutrients, such as vitamins c, d, and e, however it might not as well. Some of this is unavoidable physics and some of this is environmental storage conditions.”
Jim Merryman, president of OFD Foods, added, “It’s critical to note that the results of these real-world tests are based on nearly 50 years of Mountain House Military expertise in a number of interlocking areas: recipe formulation, ingredient sourcing, research and development, cooking, freezing, freeze drying, proprietary packaging, moisture control, oxygen control, and unwavering process control from beginning to end. If even one area is missing, it would jeopardize shelf life, leaving consumers unprepared and sorely disappointed at a time when they need a hot, comforting meal the most.”
Actual Mountain House meals stored for at least 30 years in real-world conditions met consumer expectations of “tasting good.” This was corroborated by numerous “astonished” reviewers of Mountain House Military meals that had been stored for up to 42 years. The company says it is the only brand in the industry that can legitimately make this claim.
Although differences in flavor and texture were evident – as were personal preferences – the tested recipes scored above average on a food-industry standard “hedonic scale.”
According to the Society of Sensory Professionals, the most widely used scale for measuring food acceptability is the 9-point hedonic scale. David Peryam and colleagues developed the scale at the Quartermaster Food and Container Institute of the U.S. Armed Forces to measure the food preferences of soldiers. The scale was quickly adopted by the food industry, and now is used not just for measuring the acceptability of foods and beverages, but also of personal care products, household products, and cosmetics.
The recent study by the 50-year-old company came in response to other new research showing a majority of consumers view the shelf life of long-term emergency food as the time that the product will “still taste good.”
Because reliable data in the emergency preparedness space is sparse, OFD Foods went the extra mile to collect data by asking hundreds of long term emergency food consumers what they actually expect in regards to shelf life. They found that Mountain House’s extremely high standard was overly conservative and that the low standard of ‘will sustain life’ used by competitors was nowhere near acceptable.
Instead they found that consumers expect food to ‘taste good’ at the end of its shelf life. This means that even when emergency foods are decades old, consumers still expect their meals to be enjoyable to eat.
“There is a lot of confusion in the emergency food market surrounding the concept of shelf life,” said Merryman. “During the more than 40 years of my career at OFD Foods, we’ve always used the conservative standard of ‘tastes as good as new’ for Mountain House shelf life, while many competitors use the low standard of ‘will sustain life.’ These are two very different standards of shelf life.”