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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Chief, Public Affairs Office
(508) 233-5340

Date: May 17, 2004
No: 04-15

Pouches change drinking practices for Soldiers

NATICK, Mass. -- Pouches that can be resealed are changing the way troops drink.

Drink pouches developed by the Department of Defense Combat Feeding Directorate at the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center in Natick, Mass., in partnership with packaging companies Pactech in Rochester, N.Y., and Kapack in Minneapolis, Minn., allow warfighters to pour water into a package holding a powder mix, shake and consume the beverage from the opening. If they want to save some for a little later, the plastic zipper seal holds it in.

Often they didn't bother preparing a beverage in a separate container. Field data showed that about half of the Soldiers are not consuming the Meal, Ready-to-Eat (MRE) beverage base mix because of the inconvenience of using and cleaning the canteen cup, said Lauren Milch, a physical scientist at Combat Feeding who managed package development. Pouring the mix into a canteen full of water is prohibited according to Army doctrine, so the packages are frequently thrown away unopened.

The 12-ounce beverage pouch is the first project of the Individual Combat Ration Team's Improved Packaging for Combat Rations program aimed at reducing packaging and increasing consumption, said Vicki Loveridge, a senior food technologist and project officer for improved packaging.

She said including a resealable plastic bag was a partial solution, but the drink pouch takes care of everything by replacing the current dry mix package with a disposable drinking vessel.

Originally intended to replace the MRE beverage base mix, the beverage pouches could be used for any of the military ration beverages or liquid foods, such as dairy shakes. For hot cappuccino or cocoa, the pouch was designed to fit into the flameless ration heater.

A rectangular drink pouch with a plastic zipper was evaluated in 1991, but it was shelved because the cost was considered "extravagant" at 25 cents apiece, Loveridge said.

In the last three years researchers developed prototype pouches with a non-reclosable tear-off spout, reclosable sports-type pull cap and a twist-off cap that were studied along with the final package design.

"We wanted something reusable, and they didn't want or need (a pouch) to stand up, just a way to set it down," Loveridge said. "The extra expense of a stand-up pouch was unnecessary, and it's a harder pouch to keep from cracking."

In the first evaluation with a twist-off cap pouch in 2001, 91 percent of the troops consumed their beverages, but the twist-off cap was too bulky and expensive. The latest prototype has a tear-off portion just above a resealable interlocking plastic zipper on top and slight hourglass shape for easy holding.

"What's very different from what you see at the grocery store is the zipper with a multi-laminate foil and three-year shelf life requirement," Loveridge said. "It's difficult to incorporate a zipper without compromising the foil."

With four studies already showing substantial percentage increases in the number of troops using the beverage pouch, another field test is scheduled to determine how warfighter performance improves with increased hydration.

An order of 7,000 beverage pouches has been placed for two Combat Feeding developmental products, the Remote Unit Self Heated Meal and First Strike Ration, according to Loveridge. An electrolyte-based drink powder beverage pouch was approved for four varieties of the 2004 MRE menu and could be fielded as soon as September.

"The drink pouch is something they really need, and it's designed to add minimal cost," Milch said. "We hope it takes off in popularity like the mini bottles of Tabasco sauce and flameless ration heater."

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This page last updated on 23 January 2004.