Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on the EMS Blog on October 8, 2014. It has been re-published here with minimal editing.
When it comes to choosing what kind of food to bring on a weekend camp-out or multi-day backpacking trip, convenience is king. You want easy to prepare meals with ingredients that won’t spoil, spill, or attract the attention of the furry local residents who are every bit as hungry as you are. For these reasons and many more, freeze-dried, boil-in-a-bag meals are popular alternatives to pre-mixing, storing and preparing your own breakfasts, lunches and dinners in the backcountry.
For years, the selection of prepared meals available at your local Eastern Mountain Sports stores has been dominated by Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry. Both brands offer lots of freeze-dried options for breakfast, lunch and dinner that are ready to eat within minutes after pouring boiling water directly into the pouch they’re sold in. For variety and convenience, these meals are tough to beat.
On September 30, a Maine-based newcomer to the prepared foods game named Good To-Go took a huge step forward in the form of an Editors’ Choice Award from Backpacker Magazine. While the announcement won’t be public until October 15, we at Eastern Mountain Sports have had the pleasure of watching the Good To-Go success story unfold since May when we started carrying their tasty line of dehydrated meals in 10 stores.
Since May, Good To-Go’s gluten-free Thai Curry, Smoked Three Bean Chili, and Herbed Mushroom Risotto have sold so well, they will be available in 33 stores by the end of October and in all 68 of our stores later next year. It’s hard to believe that this explosive growth started with a chance meeting at a trade show this past January in Providence. As Brian Nasser from our product management team explains, “They were just getting started and their rep only had three bags with stickers on them. I liked that the fact that they were super local and trying to do something new. I decided to test it in a few stores as soon as I tasted it and Good To-Go responded with great packaging and excellent results.”
Has Good To-Go made some incredible scientific breakthrough that has enabled them to make exceptionally tasty, gluten-free meals at reasonable prices? No.
In fact, the creator of Good To-Go isn’t a scientist at all. Jennifer Scism is a world-class chef who was on the team that defeated Mario Batali on the popular Food Network show, Iron Chef. She also co-owns Annisa, a nationally recognized restaurant in NYC. After being introduced to hiking and backpacking by her husband David Koorits, Jennifer was inspired to find a better way to enjoy delicious food while adventuring.
Jen began preparing some of her favorite meals as if she were about to serve them to her family and then experimenting with her countertop dehydrator. It’s the dehydration process that makes Good To-Go different. I asked David to give me the details:
“Freeze drying is done by taking the food down to -50 to -80 Celsius. Then using sublimation, a vacuum is applied to pull out the water. The freeze dried ingredients are then combined in the proper portions to make a meal. In contrast, Good To-Go dehydrates its meals. All the ingredients are fully cooked together allowing all the flavors to infuse like a dinner cooked at home would. At that point the meals are dehydrated and packaged. Dehydrating allows the meals to come back with more flavor and taste. For example, the broccoli in our Thai Curry comes back with texture and chew when you bite into it.”
I met David and Good To-Go marketing coordinator Emilie Chatelain at a staff training event last month and I was blown away by both the quality of their products and their dedication to sharing it with active people wherever they roam. You’ll find Good To-Go handing out free samples at trail heads, adventure races, local market days and of course, at our stores.