What makes Nomad Nutrition different from other backpacking meals currently on the market?
Apart from taste, one of the main things that sets Nomad Nutrition apart from all of the other dehydrated backcountry cuisine companies is that we don’t use the standard methods of drying. We have a proprietary method, which is unique to us. Up until now, there were only two processes that were typically used for drying. One is called dehydration, and the other is called freeze-drying. We use a process called REVdry, and it is revolutionary, or should we say REVolutionary!?
Ok, definitely want to know about REVdry, but can you walk us through dehydration vs. freeze-drying first?
Of course. Dehydration, or simply put- food drying- has been around for thousands of years, since the Neanderthals threw some fish on a rock and the sun dried it out over time. That was the traditional method of preserving and drying food. One of the biggest downsides to this method is that when you’re air-drying, not only are a lot of the nutrients and vitamins lost, but also it takes a heck of a long time. We’re talking days or sometimes weeks. Additionally, you have to add a lot of salt and preservatives to keep dehydrated food shelf-stable for a long time. It is also very difficult to reconstitute the food back to its original state. This is fine for food such as jerky or dried fish, but does not work well with foods that need to be hot, fresh, and quick.
Then, about fifty or sixty years ago, right around World War II, freeze-drying was perfected. Freeze-drying uses method called sublimation. That’s where frozen water skips right into water vapor. Essentially, you freeze a product and then slowly reheat it. During freezing, the water becomes crystallized, which ruptures the cell walls in the food. This allows for the water to escape freely and quickly as vapor during the reheating process. This has been the defacto method of new age drying for years.
The issue with freeze-drying, however, lies within it’s strength. When the cell walls are ruptured it allows for the easy passage of water molecules, but also that of nutrients and vitamins. There’s a debate on how much of it escapes, five to twenty percent, but regardless there is a loss.
The other negative is that rupturing the cell walls results in food that feels spongy, or almost has a cotton candy-type feel to it. Often times, you need to add preservatives or chemicals to make it seem like real food again. Salt is used in excess to mask the bland taste, but you can’t mask just how unnatural the food feels. I’m sure a lot of people who are reading this can attest that freeze-dried food is kind of good, it reconstitutes well and fast, but it also just tastes a little…strange, or unnatural, should I say.
Thanks for that chemistry lesson, now tell us more about REV technology?
Around a decade ago REV technology was perfected for commercial use. REV stands for Radiant Energy in a Vacuum. It was perfected out of the University of British Columbia, and the professor who did it was Dr. Durance. He then went to market with this technology.
How exactly does it work?
When you are putting food in a vacuum, you are depressurizing it. This lowers the boiling temperature of the food, so we only have to apply 15 to 20 degrees Celsius to dry it. This process is really gentle, and the radiant energy used is much more efficient at taking water outside of the cell wall compared to freeze-drying or dehydration.
The biggest benefit to this method is that cell walls don’t get ruptured. Thus, nutrients and vitamins are kept locked in the product at a rate of 1:1. This means that the food looks, tastes, feels, and smells exactly the same at the end of the process as it did going in. In our cooking at Nomad you can actually see the peas and carrots and potatoes. They look exactly the same.
Also, REVdry technology is the most eco-friendly process on the market, as compared by electricity use, because the dehydration process is 6 times faster than freeze drying and 24 times faster than dehydration.. We’re talking minutes, instead of hours or days. Because of this, the ability for microorganisms to grow on the product is substantially less. Another cool feature is that food, on average, rehydrates faster. The quickest rehydration times have been two minutes for some ingredients, and on average our Nomad Meals rehydrate in 8 minutes, which is about 40% more rapid than other methods.
How did you learn about REVdry?
I personally come from a tech background. I knew that technology aids in product development, and I wanted something that was more eco-friendly, held the nutrients and vitamins better, and tasted better than the leading methods. Starting another backcountry food company- there was no need for another one of the same. It’s a pretty saturated market.
I also spoke to and listened to a lot of hikers, climbers and alpinists about what is most important to them in backcountry cuisine. A lot of people that were eating freeze-dried food kind of complained. Most everyone I spoke to began by saying something akin to, ‘when we were on the trail and were hungry we’ll eat just about anything, but later on in the night our stomach’s feel awful.’ they weren’t really happy. I wanted people to fall in love with backcountry cuisine again, and feel good and feel healthy and be stoked when they’re coming back to the tent after a long day. That’s what I really wanted to do, and I needed something that was different from everybody else.
Just a chance Google search led me down this rabbit hole with REVdry. I called the manufacturer, and basically showed up at their doorstep with a curry in my hands and asked “Hey, could you guys dry this?” They said, “we don’t know, but we’ll try.” So they threw it in to the machine, they dried it, and 2 hours later they said “Hey, this is actually gonna work”. It took another 6 to 7 months of trial and error and calibrating the recipe to make it just right, and I think we’ve kind of hit it out of the park. In just under 6 months of being in operation MEC took us on as a vender. Now you can find our meals nationally, across Canada, in every major city.
Can you describe how does the process looks now, in the Nomad facility?
We’re still sticking true to our values. I’m driving out once a week to the farms and food distributors and picking up fresh vegetables to bring back to the factory. We cut it and cook everything ourselves in small batches. Everything is cooked just like a recipe you’d cook in your own kitchen. We just have larger pots. Then we throw it (read: place gently) into the REVdry machine. Once it comes out we weigh it again, package it, seal it, and then it goes to stores or gets shipped out from online orders to destinations all over the world.
Since our launch in January of 2017, we have shipped Nomad Nutrition to Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Australia. Of course, we also ship orders to the United States daily, and are super stoked to see people in states such as Texas eating plant-based meals from Nomad.
So what’s next for Nomad Nutrition?
We’ve got another 2 recipes we’re working on for 2018, and have another 8 ready to be tested for 2019. We are careful in our research phase as we want to make sure each recipe is tailored to people that live active lifestyles, but also taste amazing! We’ve also seen (through social media) that our meals are not only eaten in the backcountry, but we’re starting to see a lot of people eating our meals during flights instead of plane food.
We at Nomad Nutrition hope that you chose our meals on your next adventure, where ever it may be!