Five Decades of Trust in Taste, Mountain House Freeze Dried Foods
In today’s interview, Doctor Prepper’s featured guest is Kenny Larson, Marketing Coordinator of Mountain House®, the consumer division of Oregon Freeze Dried Foods, based in Albany OR.
OFD was a pioneer in the commercial development of freeze-dried meals, and continues to be the world’s leader in freeze-dry technology. In the 1960’s, OFD worked with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in adapting these meals to meet the requirements of NASA’s space program. Oregon Freeze Dry got its start as a group of investors pooled money to start construction on a factory. They chose Albany OR for its access to local fruit––strawberries, to be specific––and low-cost energy. The first freeze-dried product was strawberries, to fulfill a General Foods cereal contract.
The company got a boost later in the decade when it was selected to supply freeze-dried meals to the military during the Vietnam War. This breakthrough in food technology was used aboard most of the Apollo missions, and today Oregon Freeze Dry continues to produce many of the foods used on the shuttle flights.
The Mountain House® Story
Mountain House® traces its roots to meals made for the United States Special Forces. During the Vietnam War, the Department of Defense put out a request for food that tasted better, lasted longer, and weighed less than old K and C rations. The parent company, Oregon Freeze Dry, responded to that request and won the contract. They immediately started making freeze-dried food for the United States Special Forces––and have continued to make food for the Special Forces and other branches of the military ever since.
As the war began to wind down, Oregon Freeze Dry took the surplus rations to military surplus stores, where they rapidly sold out. It was then in 1968 we realized there was great consumer demand for freeze-dried food and Mountain House® was born.
From its unexpected start after the Vietnam War, the Mountain House® brand never really had to scramble for business. Its customers came to the company, not the other way around. In fact, Seattle-based retail cooperative REI had a key role in nudging Mountain House® into existence. As the war neared its conclusion, returning veterans contacted REI seeking “long-range patrol rations.” REI contacted Oregon Freeze Dry in 1967 seeking a price list. The company responded with its first comfort food products, including some that are still made today, including full, freeze-dried meals of beef stroganoff and beef stew. REI remains one of the biggest sellers of Mountain House®.
The business took off from there and grew steadily, with essentially no promotion. Mountain House® continued to supply freeze-dried food to the military and NASA, as well as civilian retailers. Other outlets include Walmart, Costco, Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Fred Meyer. Amazon sells the products online, as does Mountain House itself.
Mountain House® meals have since accompanied many great expeditions––to both poles, towering mountain ranges and even the moon and back! For nearly 50 years, consumers have continued to choose Mountain House® as their favorite brand of freeze-dried food for on-the-go adventures, emergency preparedness, and survival. With just-add-water convenience, easy no-mess cleanup, and home-cooked flavors, Mountain House® is the best freeze-dried camping, backpacking, hiking and emergency preparedness food money can buy.
Secrets Behind Mountain House
It’s not just the chefs that have helped make Mountain House® the #1 choice in freeze-dried adventure meals for the last 5 decades. Mountain House® food has these distinct advantages over other food options:
Simple to Prepare
Mountain House® food is easy to make. Simply open the pouch or #10 can, add hot water and stir. In just 8-10 minutes you’ll have a hot, hearty meal you can enjoy anytime, anywhere! Because you can prepare our meals in the pouch or can, cleanup is a snap. No mess!
Best Tasting Freeze-Dried Food
Mountain House® meals taste home-cooked because they are prepared the same way you do––ingredients are mixed together in a (very large) pot and cooked just like you do at home!
Longest Proven Shelf Life. Period.
A pouch of Mountain House® bought today will taste fresh on the trail today or on your table a decade from now. Mountain House® food is good for 12+ years in pouches and 25+ years in cans. When they say their food is good, they mean it will be virtually indistinguishable from new production as opposed to will sustain life. They add the “+” because they know their food will probably be good for much longer than indicated when stored in proper conditions.
Mountain House is the Food the Experts Trust
From the bottom of the deepest oceans, to the tops of the tallest mountains, from the battlefield to the poles and back, Mountain House® has fed people in every climate and condition––it’s delicious no matter where you are. Mountain House® is great as camping food, survival food, or an everyday meal. Also great as an MRE alternative, Mountain House® foods should be on any camping or survival gear checklist.
Technology of the Freeze-Drying Process
Freeze-drying has several advantages over other food preservation methods.
Frozen foods retain fresh flavor and nutritional value, but require uniform, low temperature storage conditions. Dehydrated and canned foods are shelf-stable, but high-temperature processing can degrade flavor, texture and nutritional content. Freeze-drying combines the best of these processing methods. It preserves freshness, color, and aroma similar to frozen food, while providing the shelf-stable convenience of canned or dehydrated food.
Some Advantages of Freeze-Dried Foods
Fresh Taste. Freeze-dried foods, like frozen foods, retain virtually all their fresh-food taste and nutritional content. Freeze-drying removes the water––not the flavor.
Fresh Look. Freeze-dried foods maintain their original shape and texture, unlike dehydrated foods, which shrink and shrivel due to high-temperature processing. Freeze-drying removes water under low temperatures (typically a maximum of 100°F to 130°F), which keeps intact the moisture channels and food fibers. Just add water, and in minutes, every fresh food detail returns.
Weighs less than fresh. Freeze-dried foods have 98% of their water removed. This reduces the food’s weight by about 90%. Mountain House® products light weight and compact so you can carry several days of food in a small backpack.
Stays fresh. Freeze-dried foods can be stored at room temperature, without deterioration or spoilage. This is because freeze-drying and packaging remove both water and oxygen––the two primary causes of food deterioration. Mountain House®’s backpacking products are immediately packed in a unique moisture and oxygen-barrier packaging to preserve the food’s flavor, texture, color, and nutrients. To “double” ensure freshness and prevent the food from turning rancid, an oxygen scavenger packet is placed in each pouch. The oxygen scavenger consists of iron oxide, which absorbs oxygen within the pouch. This product is not harmful to your health, but is not meant to be eaten.
Almost any food, from apples to zucchini, can be freeze-dried. So can entire meals, such as omelets, hamburgers, or Chicken a la King. In fact, Oregon Freeze Dry has produced over 400 different foods and beverages. Mountain House® sells more than 70 percent of the nation’s freeze-dried food, far and away the biggest brand of its kind.
Times, though, are changing. OFD has just recently created a marketing department to promote Mountain House® ––a first in its 52-year-history. Recently, Mountain House® products have been advertised in magazines and digital platforms. Consumers have been targeted through Facebook and other social media. Starting in a few months, new packaging will appear on retailers’ shelves. The products inside the fancy, new packaging will remain the same, with the exception of a few new recipes customers suggest through social media.
The brand turned to broad consumer feedback for the first time in the last couple of years to adjust its menu offerings. Based on this feedback––from its website, newsletter, and Facebook page––Mountain House® added biscuits and gravy as well as apple crisp to the menu. Italian pepper steak and rice, and chicken-fried rice, will be added this year, also motivated by customer feedback.
Last year the company had a photo contest through Facebook, where it now has more than 90,000 followers. None of this is bleeding-edge social media strategy, perhaps. But for Mountain House®, which still has perfectly good 50-year-old heavy machinery in its production plant, it represented a new approach.
Mountain House® share of sales––measured week by week––are somewhere between 60% to 80% last year, according to Outdoor Industry Association data, as measured in the OIA’s category of “Hardgoods/HG-Other Outdoor-Related Product/Food Product/Entrees.”
Mountain House® is still a company, and a brand within a company, looking to evolve and improve. In an effort to provide full transparency in a market where misinformation abounds, Mountain House® is the only company to regularly retain third parties to test their products. Further, Mountain House® publishing the data publically on the letterhead of the testing facility and makes it publically available, validating their claim of having the longest proven shelf life..
Mountain House® freeze-dried backpacking foods are very similar to the same foods supplied for NASA, except the packaging is a specially designed for the needs of the backpacker. You can find Mountain House® products at your local sporting goods store or you can order right from our website by clicking here.
The only difference in the standard fare and the foods produced by Oregon Freeze Dry for use on the space missions: foods for space are packed into unique pouches developed by NASA. These pouches have a special valve that allows water to be injected into the pouch. The water reconstitutes the freeze-dried food. If the food is meant to be eaten hot, the pouch is then placed in a food warmer and heated to serving temperature. (FYI: these packages are not available for commercial sale. Sorry!)
Mountain House® has been the all-time first choice of backpackers, hikers, campers and emergency preparedness experts and preppers for nearly 50 years. The great taste, ease of use, healthy foods, man-sized portions, and reliability––no matter how extreme the environment. As a result, Mountain House® commands more than 70% of the outdoor freeze-dried meal market according to the Outdoor Industry Association. Their line of meals in pouches have a proven shelf life of 12+ years. Foods in #10 cans have a proven shelf life of 25+ years. Mountain House® is the consumer brand for freeze-dried and specialty manufactured by OFD Foods Inc. (OFD), a recognized world-leader in freeze-dried food manufacturing.
Go to www.mountainhouse.com for more information about freeze-dried processing and a complete list of products.
James Talmage Stevens, Author
James Talmage Stevens (aka Doctor Prepper™) began his career in the preparedness industry from the days of his youth. His family lived with his Grandparents immediately following the end of WWII. He learned the basics on the Pace farm in rural Guilford County (NC). Farm chores and gardening were standard fare––plowing the back 40 behind a stubborn mule was substandard! In 1974, upon finishing graduate school with 4 young children and no prospects for a job due to economic conditions during a national economic slump, James reverted to his past experiences on the farm and chronicled in his notebook, along with some hand-me-down recipes from his mother and grandmother. Noting there were no viable books that dealt with all the basics, i.e.: a broad range of food products, he began to utilize his analytical skills, organizing handwritten notes, recipes, and food lore into one volume of information. He spent his spare time while job-hunting, and Making the Best of Basics was created. Before going to press, the subtitle Family Preparedness Handbook was added to distinguish Basics… from the emergency preparedness genre of the existing Civil Defense and governmental agency information.