MRO Magazine

915 Labs Leads the Food Processing Revolution Fueled by $3 Million in Funding


November 4, 2015
By Business Wire News

CENTENNIAL, Colo.

915 Labs, the exclusive provider of a revolutionary new food processing and packaging technology called Microwave Assisted Thermal Sterilization (MATS), exceeded aggressive product development targets with proceeds from its recent $3 million initial round of funding. The use of funding includes engineering and designing the MATS-150 commercial-scale system and supporting international food companies in developing new products with MATS, a transformative technology that will enable the consumer packaged goods (CPG) sector to meet growing consumer demand for high-quality, natural and additive-free packaged food. The total invested to date in the MATS technology, including R&D investment, is $25 million

Pilot-scale MATS systems are now deployed at a major CPG company and two co-packers, including Wornick Foods, where several of the largest CPGs in the country have been developing and testing new recipes. John Kowalchik, Wornick Foods President and CEO, reports that work to date has yielded exciting results. “For some food categories the resulting food quality is better than any other sterilization process ever used. The flavor, appearance and texture are top restaurant quality.”

Building the first commercial-scale MATS-150 system, capable of processing 150 food packages per minute, will commence in early 2016, and MATS-processed foods are due to hit store shelves in early 2017.

The ‘Big Food’ Industry Crisis

Packaged convenience foods are a staple in busy households—and a mainstay for major food manufacturers. However, the consumer packaged foods industry is experiencing a consumer demand crisis, the result of shifts in consumer lifestyles and food preferences. Traditional processed foods have fallen out of favor with health-conscious consumers who believe that conventional food processing—also called “retort”—produces packaged foods that lack nutritional value and flavor. In fact, conventional high-temperature food processing does negatively impact nutritive value, texture and taste—requiring the use of salt and other additives that consumers increasingly want to avoid.

The Solution: MATS System

By contrast, the MATS natural food processing approach uses a patented microwave energy delivery system that very rapidly heats and sterilizes food, minimizing the damage that occurs from long heat times and eliminating the need for unnatural additives, enhancers and added salt. 915 Labs pairs the MATS system with state-of-the-art packaging solutions that maximize the natural flavor and quality of foods. “MATS has the potential to be one of the most important advancements in food processing technology,” said Zac Zeitlin, managing partner of New Ground Ventures, an investor in the company. “We are proud to support the company and its contribution to a healthier food system.”

MATS natural food processing creates the possibility of a wide range of healthful, packaged, shelf-stable foods—from pastas, rice dishes, vegetable soups and spicy Indian dishes to gourmet ready-to-eat meals—each with an additive-free, or clean, label. “By drastically reducing cooking times to preserve flavor and nutrients, MATS removes the need to use additives to enhance flavor and simply makes processed food healthier,” said Mike Locatis, 915 Labs co-founder and CEO.

Examples include:

  • A typical MATS salmon dish may retain 5.3 mg of crucial Omega 3s, whereas today’s retort processed product would retain a negligible 0.3 mg.
  • MATS food recipes start with 50% less sodium yet still taste much better than their traditional retort counterparts.

MATS-processed food also has a wide range of potential uses in addition to branded consumer packaged foods, including meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) for armed forces and rations distributed by humanitarian agencies to third-world countries plagued by famine and food waste.

The 915 Labs Value Proposition

MATS processing promises to deliver healthier, higher-quality and additive-free packaged foods. However, it can also extend the reach of shelf-stable foods to underserved populations and provide farmers in remote areas with the ability to process fresh produce that might otherwise go to waste. Improving the taste and nutritive value of processed foods; reducing food waste; and improving the sustainability of the global food supply are all at the core of the 915 Labs value proposition.

About MATS

MATS technology was developed by food engineering scientist Juming Tang, Ph.D., at Washington State University, in conjunction with a consortium of private food packaging and equipment companies and the U.S. Department of Defense. With the first of many patents surrounding the system filed in 2006, the MATS technology is also the only microwave sterilization process accepted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

About 915 Labs

915 Labs is a leader in natural food processing and packaging and the exclusive licensee of the MATS technology. A team of seasoned executives with extensive experience managing growth-stage technology ventures leads the Denver-based company. CEO Mike Locatis is a successful startup entrepreneur who has also served as Assistant Secretary for both the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy in the Obama Administration. 915 Labs investors include Connecticut-based New Ground Ventures, an investment firm with stakes in a number of branded food and food technology companies, and San Francisco-based Theorem Ventures, an early-stage investor in technology-related companies.

for 915 Labs
Gaby Perez-Silva, 650-390-6700
gaby@bospar.com