Great idea for arctic expeditions and round the world yachtsmen, I'd have thought, but with sales increasing ten-fold over the last few months, freeze-dried foods are set to go mainstream as natural disasters, depleted resources, the fluctuating world economy and civil unrest create anxiety for many.
Using an energy-intensive (and therefore highly expensive) process, culinary favourites such as curry and rice, chilli con carne and spaghetti Bolognese are freeze-dried, reducing weight and volume by as much as 90% whilst retaining flavour and up to 97% of nutritional value. And, as meals come in an air-tight tin and with a shelf-life of 25 years, they're ideal for stockpiling, providing, of course, you can afford to shell out over £2,000 for 72 tins - equivalent to a 12-month supply.
But just who ARE the customers. What sort of people are prepared to pay the price?
First to spring to mind, perhaps, may be 'end-time' fundamentalists who - convinced by Bible prophecies such as Matthew chap 24, Luke chap 21, 2 Timothy chap 3 and Revelation chap 6 - have long warned of a coming tribulation. It must be stressed, however, that genuine believers put their faith in a higher source than freeze-dried food suppliers. (After all, if God could protect and provide for over 3 million people in the desert for 40 years, one square meal once a day should be a cinch!)
James Blake of Emergency Food Storage says the company gets "a lot of high-powered business people as customers. Most people buy insurance for their health, their house or their life - this is food insurance. Of course, we hope is never happens, but if there is a major catastrophe, then money is not going to be worth much after a couple of days. It will be food that becomes the most needed thing."
According to Dave Hannah of B-prep, customers include bankers, spending an average of £3,000 a pop. Perhaps fuelling the current paranoia, Dave opines: "It makes you think, what do they know? When we've talked on the phone they've told me, 'This whole thing is going to go down.'"
In his article Tom Rawstorne goes on to list events which, over recent years have exposed the fragility of our food supplies. From UK fuel strikes in 2000 and last summer's riots, to natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquake and the horrific Japanese Tsunami - each catastrophe serves to remind us that starvation is just 9 meals away.
No wonder foods such as the US Mountain brand are attracting so much interest - in the past year alone, British sales have leapt by 350%! And it doesn't take much imagination to understand why. But for anyone planning to stock up their larder before Armageddon, here's a sobering thought: If people will happily loot for luxury goods such as 3-D TVs and designer clothing, how much more determined will they be for food? Not for the first time in human history, perceived ‘haves’ will be targeted by desperate ‘have-nots’ – a scenario that doesn’t bear contemplating.