From instant coffee to Cheetos, packaged cookies and energy bars, the U.S. military helped invent many of the snacks Americans love to eat.
The effort accelerated during World War II, when military scientists needed to develop compact yet nutritional ways to feed the troops.
“There was a tremendous need for the military to develop modern rations, and it ended up not only inventing a bunch of new food processing techniques but putting in place a food science research system that exists to this day,” says food writer Anastacia Marx de Salcedo, author of “Combat-Ready Kitchen: How the U.S. Military Shapes the Way You Eat”. “Out of that came a lot of new techniques and food, and after the war, those were incorporated into snack and convenience foods.”
Those new techniques include high pressure processing, which makes uncooked food safe to eat. The process is routinely used in packaged foods like guacamole, salsa and hummus.
Cheetos, one of America’s favorite cheesy, crunchy snacks, are made possible by the dehydration process the military worked on to remove the water from cheese. That gave cheese both a longer shelf life and made it lighter to transport to troops overseas.