Coming soon to an MRE near you: powdered hot sauce.
New batches of the field rations will contain the only way to enliven everything from chili mac to cheese tortellini in a powder form.
As Julie Smith, senior food technologist for the Army’s Combat Feeding Division, told Stars and Stripes, that means those instantly recognizable miniature Tabasco bottles will be phased out by 2024.
It’s one of many changes that was approved for the next generation menu of MREs — short for Meal, Ready to Eat — in February. While the miniature Tabasco bottles may be iconic, having seasoned (or soured) many meals while in the field, the powdered stuff is simply lighter and cheaper.
And while troops in focus groups and questionnaires consistently ranked hot sauce favorably, researchers – whose job included sifting through discarded MREs – found that when it came to the miniature bottles, that love may have been more symbolic than practical.
“We had a lot of unopened bottles of hot sauce,” said research psychologist Wendy Johnson.
Tabasco has been a staple of military rations for decades, dating back to 1966, when the company’s CEO Walter McIlhenny began distributing a pocket C-ration cookbook that came with a two-ounce bottle of the product.
“Your product has always been in demand by troops in the field,” wrote Army Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf in a 1991 letter to the McIlhenny Company. “I have enjoyed spicing up my own rations with your pepper sauce for many years.”
In 1992, the Department of Defense officially added the ⅛ ounce bottles to the MREs.
It isn’t the first time they’ve been on the culinary chopping block, though.
In 2011, they were replaced with a ketchup-style packet. The tiny bottles made one more return in 2019, though, after the military’s source for those packets stopped making them.
For those who prefer their Tabasco in a liquid rather than solid state, don’t fret. The Combat Feeding Division is still researching better ways to deploy liquid hot sauce.
In the meantime, videos like this will actually make a lot more sense.