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I have a mixed history with freeze-dried food. While it is no doubt a great option when weight is a consideration, you also resign yourself to the fact that after a few days on it, the stomach is going to be a little less than optimal, and your ‘outputs’ are either going to go to nil, or go to over-enthusiastic, to say the least. Neither option really is ideal for a hunting or tramping situation where you do really want your body to perform in an optimal state.
In addition, despite following the instructions to a tee (and I suggest you don’t – leave them to sit longer than suggested)) – many turn into a strange tasting, goopy mush. Often, the predominant flavour – is salt. No, I am not flat out bagging them all – we all quickly develop our favourites – and tend to end up getting the same one-or-two options each time.
However, we have to this point, been a little limited in regards to ‘high performance’ options for freeze-dried food – sure – you have had gourmet options – but that was more focused on a taste aspect, rather than the quality of ingredients of resulting nutritional profile.
Enter – Radix Nutrition
I originally heard of Radix Nutrition through Joesph (FlyingKiwi) – another contributor to this site, avid hunter, and an all-around nice guy. He turned up one day with a couple of packets to try out from this new company making freeze-dried food, but it all just seemed, well, a little different.
If you looked at the pack, it was minimalistic, with a simple sliver colourway and a heavy lean towards providing nutritional information on the package. The other odd thing, that there were ingredients like bone broth, coconut oil, chia seeds, and other, well, healthy-looking inclusions. Not a lot of chemical names I couldn’t pronounce were present, and if you visited the website, which was rather new at the time, you ended up with a lot of photo’s of overly healthy look sports-folk ((i.e. triathletes, adventure athletes and mountaineers)) and it seemed that these guys were up to something a little different.
Main man Mike
Meeting Mike, the founder, head-honcho and brains of the operation, was an experience, and a very enjoyable one. Mike is one of those people you occasionally meet, that just seems so ‘into’ his work that it’s infectious. He is driven to produce the best nutrition in the most convenient way possible. His focus and genuine excitement for the innovations the Radix is making is very cool, and I was lucky enough to be given a personal tour of the new facilities in Hamilton.
Mike was also kind enough to answer some questions, and, true to his style – he didn’t just give me some throwaway answers, but obviously sat down and considered the questions, giving me quite the response! To be honest, they are so good, I have just included them in complete below.
A chat with Mike Rudling, CEO, Product Architect.
What Is The Origin Story For Radix?
Radix began from the desire to help people achieve more through nutrition – to make good nutrition easier. Nutrition is a fast-evolving and complex study that is confusing to many people and often poorly understood. Often, people are given advice that is too complicated and time-consuming to be implemented realistically into everyday life. Radix was designed to simplify and optimise every aspect of nutritional quality and convenience, creating the simplest solution for those looking to enhance health and performance.
What Was Your Background Prior To Starting Radix?
I have always been an athlete. I was a competitive swimmer from ages four to fifteen, and reached a national level in the UK, specialising in freestyle distance swimming. I had to stop when I injured both shoulders but discovered road cycling as a result. Pretty quickly, I realised that I loved it and wanted to pursue road cycling full time. I left school at seventeen and spent the next seven years competing professionally on the road, specialising in time trialling.
In everything I have ever done, my main passion has always been the pursuit of improving and optimising performance. It wouldn’t matter what it was, I always wanted to make it faster, more efficient, lighter, and simpler. In my training, I would consider every aspect of my plan, lifestyle and routines to identify areas of improvement. I would then implement changes and track the result. I learned a lot.
From early on, people asked me for advice as they tried to improve their own performance. I’d tell them what I learned, only to discover many people struggled to apply that information effectively. This was an important realisation for me. I realised that failure typically occurs not through a lack of knowledge, but in the failure of application. This problem seeded an idea.
At twenty-four I decided to retire from professional racing and to focus on the next thing, even though I was not entirely sure what that would look like. I wanted to address the difficulty of application, and this was a significant starting point for Radix and seeking out a complete and simple nutrition solution.
Why A Freeze Dry Food Company?
Radix doesn’t see itself as a freeze-drying company. We are a technology company focused on delivering customers the most effective solution technically possible, enabling people to enhance their health and performance through nutrition. In short, we want to make the application of nutrition easier. Freeze drying enables us to do this most effectively, but we would change methods if we discovered a better way.
How Does Radix Differ From The Other Existing Freeze Dry Companies?
Radix’s mission is to enhance human potential through applied nutrition. Everything we do must give an improvement in nutritional value, quality, efficiency, social responsibility and reduced environmental footprint. We drive towards these values every day.
We do not see any other companies in the world working on this problem in the same way and with the same values. For this reason, Radix is different from all other freeze-dried food manufacturers in almost every regard, even though our products can be used in the same environments.
What Advantages Does Freeze Drying Have As A Method Of Preparation For Food?
Freeze drying provides us with several main benefits. Firstly, it is the most delicate preservation method we can find to protect the integrity and nutritional values of food. It is worth noting that not all freeze drying is created equal. The term freeze drying describes the physical phenomena of removing water from a product in its frozen state. However, the quality of the actual processing is often poor in an industry that’s driven solely by low cost and minimal investment in equipment. We focus on maximising quality through tighter manufacturing tolerances and processing parameters that others in the food industry avoid because they cost too much or are too complicated.
Secondly, freeze drying forms an integral part of what we call the Radix Nutrition Architecture or RNA. Through this RNA approach, we are able to source the highest quality ingredients from around the world and deliver the customer an ultra-high quality, 100% natural product that can be used by anyone, anywhere in the world. We believe this is really powerful. I don’t believe this approach has been used before and it enables us to create a very powerful supply-chain that’s solely focused on providing exceptional nutrition to our customers.
Thirdly, freeze drying gives us a light-weight and convenient product that is easy to transport and simple to use. These values are important to us – they encapsulate simplicity. In fact, the drive for simplicity is central to our design discussions as we pursue our mission to enhance human potential through applied nutrition. We think that simplicity is key if a person is to integrate outstanding nutrition into a person’s routine or activity.
How Does Your Involvement With The Adventure/Extreme/Endurance Sports Shape Your Approach To Radix?
Working with people who push the limits of performance helps us shape and refine our products to create a more effective tool.
We are fortunate to work with people in the most incredible environments – people who are really pushing the body’s ability to function well and recover. People in these kinds of sports understand the importance of nutrition because they are so familiar with the consequence of an effective or ineffective recovery. As athletes, a big part of their job is to maintain and optimise their bodies as hardware, if they are to perform. It is a real pleasure to work with people who understand this and approach performance through the paradigm of gains and incremental improvements.
When we discuss product performance with these groups, it leads to truly fascinating insights that you just wouldn’t normally expect. Every detail is considered and refined in the pursuit of performance gains. You name it and it comes up: weight reduction, packaging volume, nutritional values, improvements in digestibility, increasing calorie and nutrient density. It is all fascinating. With our new factory, we are looking to grow our product development team and work through an exciting product roadmap.
What Are Some Common Mistakes You See People Making When It Comes To Planning Their Nutritional Needs For Sports/Trips?
Misunderstanding the role of nutrition. Most people still evaluate food on flavour and calories above healthfulness and functionality. Healthy food is not a nice-to-have, it is a must-to-have for the body to function well and look after itself. Failing to understand this leads to people harmingß their short- and long-term health and performance.
But that’s not to say that flavour should come at the expense of healthfulness! Nutritious food that supports the mind and body with the nutrients it needs always tastes great. You just need to make smart choices. This is where Radix offers a significant and unique advantage. Previously, in remote and challenging environments people have had to use ration packs and traditional freeze-dried meals that provide little nutritional value and carry ingredients that are detrimental to health and performance.
Another problem is when people create a nutritional plan based on calories. This is a very poor approach and misses the larger value of nutrition in all its elements. I believe it is a significant failing when people prioritise the focus on simple calorie requirements and expenditures. This approach is popular probably because it is easy to measure and make sense of, and I am disappointed when I see nutritionists teach this approach to students, athletes or patients. Few people are short of calories, but many lack nutritionally.
What Are The Key Differences Between The Different Ranges Available From Radix?
Our ranges are differentiated by ingredient types, macronutrient compositions such as protein, fat and carbohydrate contents, as well as other aspects of the product performance – things like rehydration, weight and pack size. That being said our core design focus is always to provide the highest nutrient density to our customer in their given scenario and environment.
The Wellbeing range is a smaller serving size for those not undertaking significant physical workload. The Performance range is larger meals, featuring increased protein and carbohydrate content. These meals are aimed at supporting a higher physical workload with a more traditional macronutrient makeup. The Expedition range was designed in response to customer feedback, to provide the highest nutrient-to-weight ratio possible with a focus on supporting metabolic energy production through fat adaptation. The range has also been designed to require less water to rehydrate, thus reducing cooking time and fuel consumption. We believe this also keeps water available for drinking, to replace their fluid requirements. The Expedition breakfast range was also designed for cold-water rehydration. This is advantageous to the military and mountaineers who need a nutritious main meal portion but do not want to stop to heat water. Again our focus is on providing the most effective tool.
What Is Your Favourite Meal In The Range?
I prefer the expedition range, in particular, the Chicken Curry, Beef Palusami and the Apple and Cinnamon breakfast. I almost live off these! They save me so much time during the week and I prefer to follow a diet that is higher in fat and protein and lower in carbohydrates, around an intermittent eating routine.
Radix’s mission is to enhance human potential through applied nutrition.
The Company Forms
Radix is growing. Originally based down in Waiuku, the company moved to much larger production facilities in Hamilton – at the same time significantly upgrading the equipment and processes available to them. Innovation seems to be a big push for Mike – streamlining the process, but also improving the process – resulting in a better product for the customer.
Better process, better result
One thing that Mike mentioned, which I found rather interesting – is that Radix Nutrition works a little different than some of the other companies – in that all the ingredients are freeze-dried before putting them together – and it’s the process of adding boiling water that cooks and combines the food just before eating – compare this to cooking all the food, then freeze drying it already cooked – and you begin to understand why the Radix Product, despite no additional colourings or flavourings, looks better before you add water, retains more colour throughout the process and, just seems to carry a more complete flavour profile once cooked. In addition, Mike explained that because many of the ingredients are freeze dried at the source, the nutritional profile of the ingredients remains intact, and therefore the resulting food is better for you.
It’s not just us that have noticed either – Radix has quietly been getting rave reviews from all over the place – key things seem to be nutrition (unsurprisingly) but also taste – ranking on average higher than any of the incumbents. Check out this review over at Wilderness Magazine – or – the latest Rod-n-Rifle Magazine that features a freeze-dry-shootout.
They are winning packing awards, process awards – all sorts. For a company that is ‘relatively’ new to the marketplace – they are getting noticed. When you get to experience the drive that Mike and the company have though, it doesn’t seem that surprising.
Just add salt
Having eaten quite a few of these meals now, if I had one comment, it would be that some of them, to my pallet – could do with a bit of salt, and, mentioning this to Andrew, the marketing manager – the response was simply – ‘yes – and you can add some’. I guess this is a valid point – you can add seasoning, you can’t take it away.
Though, I have to ponder; it’s more a case of me being used to more sodium in the meals, than it actually needing more – and I am sure that my tastes will adapt over time. Failing that, I always carry a little container of salt with me anyhow – so it easy enough to just add a pinch once the meal has re-hydrated.
Just what is Freeze Drying?
Freeze drying is the removal of ice or other frozen solvents from a material through the process of sublimation and the removal of bound water molecules through the process of desorption.
The steps in Freeze Drying are as follows…
- Pretreatment / Formulation
- Loading / Container (Bulk, Flask, Vials)
- Freezing (Thermal Treatment) at atmospheric pressure
- Primary Drying (Sublimation) under vacuum
- Secondary Drying (Desorption) under vacuum
- Backfill & Stoppering (for a product in vials) under partial vacuum
- Removal of Dried Product from Freeze Dryer
Let’s use a handy video to explain –