Wise Foods vs Mountain House Smack Down

Back in July of 2012, on Survivalist Boards, a new thread was started. The Wise Foods vs Mountain House Smack Down caught my attention PDQ.  The nut of the story is that Mountain House decided to take Wise Foods to task and paid for a third party testing company (Columbia Food Laboratories) to verify Wise Foods’ claims to extended shelf life. The tests came back, according to Mountain House, showing that there was a significant amount of O2 left in WF products.

From Survival Mom.

“Mountain House commissioned Columbia Food Laboratories to test 30 samples of dehydrated and freeze dried meals from Wise Company as well as 30 samples of comparable Mountain House freeze dried meals. The results were staggering. Average oxygen levels in Wise Company products were 18.25%, nearly the 21% level found in the atmosphere and 110 times higher than the average 0.16% oxygen found in Mountain House products. The most alarming part is that Wise Company products were manufactured in April of 2012 and already exhibit near-atmospheric levels of oxygen, which would not provide a 25-year shelf life.”

Both a Mountain House and a Wise Foods rep chipped in. That was quite the treat. I was very surprised to see Wise Foods do little in the way of disproving the test results.

The first MH response on this thread stated:

“John Auberry, Oremrunner,

Mountain House commissioned an independent third party laboratory that specializes in food to perform a headspace analysis on 30 pouches each of both Wise and Mountain House food. The analysis involves using an instrument designed specifically for the purpose to analyze the oxygen and carbon dioxide content of the “headspace” in a pouch, with nitrogen by difference.

It’s true that we paid for the study, and we appreciate your concerns. But there was really no other way to persuade an independent laboratory to do the work without paying them for it.

Mels thinkingitover,

We were concerned that people were buying large quantities of food for long-term storage that might be unsuitable for the purpose, and an emergency is no time to find out that you didn’t get what you paid for… Any credit or discredit flows from the scientific results.

For anyone who’s interested,

We’ve published a chart that details the study results, including O2 levels for each of the 30 Wise and Mountain House pouches (by flavor), averages, acceptable levels of O2, and atmospheric level of O2.

http://mms.businesswire.com/bwapps/m…d=331780&vid=5″

The image linked to follows:

MountainHouse_OxygenContentStudy_Chart

What you see here are the level of O2 for both companys’ products. MH is clearly lower.

Wise answered with a statement on the boards that included the following:

“FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wise Company, Inc.: Ensuring Quality Every Step of the Way

Salt Lake City, Utah – July 16, 2012: Mountain House, a supplier of emergency and outdoor foods, issued a press release on July 12, 2012 targeting a single competitor: Wise Company. Why attack Wise Company when Mountain House has dozens of other competitors? Because Mountain House is now launching a new bucket and pouch line designed for emergency preparedness very similar to a product that has been a specialty of Wise Company since their inception.”

LP: Keep in mind that MH has been producing pouch products for decades for the hiking community, and similar products for military use. It’s nothing new. And what are buckets? Nothing more than containers for pouches.

“Wise Company has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years with its emergency foods packaged in pouches capable of lasting up to 25 years. During this time, Mountain House has claimed that food pouches have no more than a 7-year shelf life. Now, in conjunction with the launch of its new product line, Mountain House has changed its story and claims that pouches can achieve a 25-year shelf life!”

LP: The 7 year shelf life was a guarantee. The fact that they last longer than that is a new revelation because they have actually been around long enough to open up an “expired” product, test it, and verify it is still nutritious and tasteful. That real world test is only possibly with the passage of real world time. The same is true for their older #10 canned products tested in the last few years.  There isn’t a single WF product in existence that old, or near that old. Their claims are projections, while MH can point to actual aged samples.

“Wise Company takes great pride in providing high quality emergency food with a long-term shelf life. The Mountain House surprise attack relies on a lab study commissioned and presumably paid for by Mountain House. Notably, Wise Company’s existing quality testing and data show oxygen levels in its products lower than those alleged by Mountain House.”

LP: “Presumably”? There is nothing presumable about it. Now, here is where I got a little peeved. WF says they have claims contrary to the study, but they never released those findings. We have to take their word for it. The argument was made that, if the data exists, why not just publish it? Was it because WF couldn’t support it? Was it because WF didn’t have data of such quality? Did they fear yet another independent study smacking them down?

“Wise Company’s raw materials and finished goods contain very low moisture levels. The extreme low moisture content contributes to product stability. Wise Company product is then packed in ultra-high barrier (UHB) packaging with a very low oxygen transmission rate as well as a very low water vapor transmission rate (WTR). Once sealed, Wise individual pouches are stored in durable plastic containers. These elements, along with proper storage and temperature, are essential to providing consumers with quality products capable of lasting up to 25 years.”

LP: They made no mention of appropriately low O2 levels, and did not challenge CFL’s test results or methodology. Completely ignored the charges and switched desired relevant fact with a few fancy phrases describing technology that doesn’t do a thing for lowering O2 levels and keep[ing them there.

“We take our obligations in this industry very seriously,” said Brian Neville, president and CEO of Wise Company. “We have confidence in our food pouches standing the test of time.”

LP: Well, HE may have confidence in it, but I surely do not. CFL’s test results, if far out of the norm and completely wrong, could easily and quickly be proven by the release of the results of WF’s own tests – yet they were not. Even the results of MH’s own products subject to the test were not questioned by WF. In fact, WF never challenged anything about the tests and only stated that they didn’t like being picked on, the only company that MH took to task. As far as I know, MH has no obligation to treat all competitors evenly. It’s within their rights to challenge anyone. If the challenge can not be answered, that just adds to the information discovered and shared.

From Goose3 on that thread:

“The thing about the Wise post that bothers me is they do nothing to refute the arguments that Mountain House has made–nothing about the process, their head space gases, what their analyses of headspace gases indicate, if they’ve even done it–and I’ll bet that either they haven’t or, if they have, the information isn’t very good.

If it were, I think we’d have heard about it from them.

IMO, it’s just…fluff.”

Which brings me to something that I think everyone needs to keep in mind, not just preppers. Claims to the quality of a product or service should be able to stand up to review, whether that review is a professional evaluation, peer review or simple word of mouth ratings. If someone is trying to sell you something, and you can’t verify their claims, it’s time to check with others. In cases where a company refuses to adequately address negative claims made by another, take the time to think about why. There may be cases where a company is challenged and a response is either not necessary due to the quality of the challenge, or because it is simply too ludicrous to give attention to. But here, with the Wise Foods vs Mountain House smack down, the challenge was made by a large company with an excellent reputation, and backed by research in a published format – completely open to review of all sorts and subject to correction if in error. No claims were ever made that the results were erroneous, that the testing was flawed or that the outcome should be tossed. Additionally, the challenged party didn’t discount attempt to prove the results were wrong with any test data of its own.

People who are challenged will stand up for themselves and prove the challenger wrong – if they can. I personally believe the Wise Foods let this one go because they couldn’t make an answering challenge that would stand up to scrutiny. That is my personal belief based on the exchanges from that thread.

Well after a month, with no sighting of the promised reply from WF’s president, and MH came back on to post this note:

 “Hi Everyone,

Apologies in advance for the long post, but over the last month we’ve seen many requests for more data as well as questions about the studies we’ve published. At Mountain House, we’re strong advocates of transparency and we’d like to take a couple of minutes to provide you with some more information.

The most frequent data request we have seen has been for the oxygen content of more samples of Wise products. While Wise has chosen not to respond to those requests, Mountain House has commissioned another third party study of their remaining long-term food storage line, adding their fruit, vegetable, meat, sauce, and cereal products to the dry-blended entrees from the earlier study. Here is a summary of the combined results (we’d be happy to provide the underlying data upon request):

* 90 separate sample pouches.
* Dated from 6/11/11 through 4/24/12.
* A minimum of 34 distinct batches.
* Purchased at retail from 4 different online vendors.
* Sent to a third party laboratory in original packaging.
* Oxygen levels averaged 17.1% across the entire Wise long-term food storage product line.

We strongly suggest that customers of long-term emergency food storage confirm not only the flavor and nutrition of products they’re planning on purchasing, but also the oxygen content, before spending a large sum of money. Mountain House has over 40 years of experience meeting and exceeding stringent military specs (e.g., < 2% oxygen), and you can be confident that our products will be there for you when you need them most. Emergencies can be stressful and you want to be sure that you will enjoy the food you have stored, whatever brand(s) you choose.

Another frequent question focuses on the funding of the oxygen content and sensory evaluation studies we’ve released. We are very open about this: Mountain House hired unaffiliated organizations that specialize in testing to conduct research. The reason we did this was to assure customers that the resulting data was solid and free from bias.

We actually have a state-of-the-art food laboratory and could have easily performed the studies ourselves, just as we routinely test our own products as part of our rigorous quality assurance process. But we know that when a company claims that “we have tests that prove what we say”, customers are rightly skeptical, even if the company publishes that data.

Instead, we hired third party organizations to conduct the studies: Columbia Food Laboratories for the oxygen headspace analysis and Oregon State University’s Sensory Science Laboratory for the sensory evaluation. Neither is affiliated with Mountain House or the emergency food storage industry, and both value their reputations as respected scientific organizations.

If other companies wish to fund similar unbiased third party studies of Mountain House products purchased from multiple online vendors, we encourage them to do so. It is a large market, customer tastes and budgets vary, and there is plenty of room for honest competition among reputable manufacturers.

As a leader in the long-term food storage industry for over 40 years, Mountain House wants customers to be able to make informed decisions regarding purchases that will sustain their families and give them comfort in times of emergency. Towards that end, we will continue to test both our own and competitive products in the market and report our findings to interested consumers.

Please feel free to contact us at MH-Info (at) ofd.com, or post your questions/comments on this forum. We’ll do our best to respond promptly.

Thanks for your interest in this very important subject.

Mountain House.”

On another front, PreparednessAdvice.com posted a link to an Oregon State University (Sensory Science Lab) study done on taste. MH came out on top at 90%. Many testers on SurvivalistBoards staed that WF had a high sodium level and that it could be tasted.

 I recently put up a post on Wise vs Mountain House foods. See post at (SafeCastle.blogspot.com)  http://bit.ly/Rrvgqe. There has been quite a bit of concern about the claims made by Mountain House that Wise Foods were tested by an independent laboratory and were found to have a high oxygen contain. Today I was provided a link by one of our readers that shows the results of a taste test conducted by Oregon State University on products from the two companies. The results showed that Mountain House was preferred by over 90% of the participants. The link can be seen at http://bit.ly/NRxmJ5 and you will find links to show the methodology used for the test.

Draw your own conclusions

Mountain House did eventually post the results of the test and the data used on their own website. It’s still there, two years later. If there was any lying going on, the risk of a law suit by WF would have made this one heck of a stupid move. LINK TO MH 3RD PARTY TEST PAGE.

Just to beat the pro-Mountain House drum a little louder, I’m going to share a point that they made which is part of my spiel to those asking about storage foods – specifically, that calories per dollar are KING.

10 Bears,

When figuring out how much food is enough, calories is definitely the way to go, not servings. We use a 1 cup serving because it’s the USDA “Reference Amount Customarily Consumed” (RACC), in order to help consumers compare apples-to-apples. As you point out, the number of “servings” you’ll need can vary widely depending on appetite and activity level.

That said, some companies don’t use RACC servings, so you need to be careful. And again, calories are king. For instance, a serving of MH Ground Beef in #10 cans is 290 calories (45g, $2.47/serving, or 0.86 cents/cal), while a serving of Wise “Savory Roasted Ground Beef” is 100 calories (16g, $2.25/serving, or 2.25 cents/cal). Cost per serving can be deceiving…

Ultimately, we agree that folks are best served by eating what they store and storing what they eat. A well diversified set of emergency foods can be the best bet for most families: FD + DH + cans, etc., in whatever proportion suits your tastes and budget. (A personal Tuesday Night favorite is 1/2 MH Chili Mac + 1/2 whole wheat pasta shells, maybe with a can of corn thrown in for variety.)

Since this thread, I have seen a massive increase in small WF distributors, and even radio advertising campaigns. The suspicious side of my brain tells me that this is probably enough to offset the relatively small negative press that WF received as a result of the MH press release. Who knows. WF is new on the scene. Many people were hoping that their claims were true, and that perhaps there was an alternative to MH. I was one of them until I got a feel for their wide spread marketing efforts, and their (please pardon the comparison) whore-like efforts at selling product.

There are other manufacturers’ products on my shelves. Provident Pantry. Nitro-Pak. Honeyville Grain, Alpine Aire, LDS Cannery and Yoder’s. We will be adding Auguson Farms soon. Most of what we keep on hand is single ingredient product, like bell peppers, cooked beef, onions, eggs, etc… We combine to make dishes. But we also have quite a few entrée type meals from Mountain House. I tried some Wise product prior to the SMack Down thread, and was not impressed. That trial, the test publication and what I’ve seen of the marketing engine running full tilt just turned me off to them entirely. The others run on, do good business, gain good reviews and generally perform as expected. They’ve earned reputations and expectations. I will continue doing business with them.

 

Disclaimer: I do not earn anything from any of these companies expect for referrals by The Ready Store and Freeze Dried Guy as seen on the ad column to the right. Even those are very small percentages that go to running this site. If I had the option, and the ability to do it, I would absolutely sell Mountain House here on this site, at the largest discount allowable at any time per contract. I make no bones about being biased towards their product, because I have publicly and privately inquired as to their product and practices, and received honest, satisfactory answers from Oregon Freeze Dried. Am I biased? Yes. So are each of those companies, and so are you. Everyone is. The question to ask is not, “Are you biased?” but, “WHY are you biased, and how does that show what is important to you?”

I want to see people with access to quality long term storage food at low prices. Anything that helps people prepare for times when they are out of work, needing to relocate, or fending off horrible conditions due to natural and man-made disasters is a GOOD THING. Shame on those who sell products that might not perform as advertised when they absolutely must.

1 comment to Wise Foods vs Mountain House Smack Down

  • LTS (Long TermStorage) Food Comparisons « A Survival Plan

    […] Wise Foods Storage (grrr, they should be last based of shelf life failure) […]

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