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Nelson Discovers What N.A.S.A. Couldn't

Freeze-dried food, today, is commonplace. It’s throughout the super market food aisle in many products, cooking garnishes, coffee, snacks, freeze dried fruit in cereals, to name a few. It's most commonly used by trampers and hunters, who carry it as 'ready to eat meals' on trips into the great outdoors, and people with emergency kits stock it in their basements in preparation for natural disaster. But first, it was astronauts who used it on trips into orbit.

In the early days of the space programme, one of the many problems to solve was feeding the astronauts during their time away from Earth. Food needed to be shelf-stable and long lasting, and it needed to pack small and light, and be easy to prepare. NASA funded research on an array of possible food preservation techniques. The most prominent being dehydrating or freeze-drying. In 1971, they decided that freeze drying would play a role in space. It was the best way to preserve nutritional value, extend shelf life, the easiest to re-hydrate and lightest possible weight as 99% of the water is removed.

While freeze dried food still has a role in space, these days dinner at the space-station is fresh fruit and oven cooked feasts, technology has enabled the astronauts to dine differently, but that hasn't stopped innovation elsewhere. The Real Meal Company in Nelson has developed a cutting edge freeze drying method that serves up something exceptionally unique, you could even say a Nelson chef has beaten the rocket scientists to a better way of freeze drying food!

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Freeze dried meals are typically made on an industrial scale, the manufacturers blend dried ingredients together to recipe. This process is economical and efficient, the downside is that the food is often substandard. For trampers and hunters, who aren't a fussy bunch, they've somewhat grudgingly accepted that to have lightweight and quick to prepare meals, there is a sacrifice, food you'll eat in a hut, but not something you'll eat at home.

Real Meals challenged this model with a belief that no matter where you are in the world, or space, we have the technology to allow us to eat amazing meals. Perhaps it's no surprise that the driving force behind Real Meals, is world's most acclaimed Adventure Racer, Nathan Fa'avae.

Fa'avae has captained the New Zealand adventure racing team to 6-World Titles, won multiple GODZone events in New Zealand, and in 2019 led the New Zealand team to victory in Eco Challenge - the World's Toughest Race.

The outdoor educator and adventure guide has spent the past three decades running, biking and paddling to the remotest parts of the planet, he knows the importance nutrition plays in extreme challenge.

"The biggest motivating factor for me with Real Meals is providing people with the best possible energy source for their own adventures. The meals need to be nutrient dense, it's key that they are delicious to eat. I know beyond doubt that Real Meals will provide our customers with everything they need." Fa'avae says.

"Many people have been put off freeze dried food because most of it is difficult to eat, I know this from my own experiences. The unfortunate outcome from that is some people didn't enjoy their introduction to the outdoors because they didn't have healthy and tasty food. It's really important to me that to ensure people have positive experiences in the outdoors, that they have food that is not only enjoyable, it's about having food that blows them away, and that's how we think at Real Meals. I want people to try tramping, and enjoy it so much they want to do it again".

Real Meals can be purchased online, and at outdoor stores and supermarkets throughout New Zealand.

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