NewsIn Good Company


Boulder-based Backpackers' Pantry packs nutrition and compassion into its hearty meals

Posted at 2:53 PM, Oct 15, 2020
and last updated 2021-01-05 17:09:26-05

We've all needed food in a pinch, and maybe now more than ever.

Boulder-based Backpackers' Pantry has been known to campers and hikers for decades.

But it has found new inspiration in 2020.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary for a brand truly ingrained in Colorado’s lifestyle.

Backpackers’ Pantry freeze dries wholesome food ingredients and combines them in easy-to-use pouches for gourmet meals on the go.

“The pouches are intended to just tear open the pouch,” said Soraya Smith, president of American Outdoor Products. “Add the boiling water, seal the pouch back up, wait fifteen minutes, and then you have your meal.”

American Outdoor Products is the parent company of Backpackers’ Pantry, Colorado Spice, and Astronaut Ice Cream.

“We were asked if we could freeze dry ice cream,” says Smith. “And we tried it, and it worked. So, Astronaut Ice Cream was born.”

Prior to the pandemic, Astronaut Ice Cream was the second-highest selling item at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum next to bottled water.

Their latest brand, Chef Soraya, is beans and rice bowls you can find in grocery stores, where the just-add-water concept applies.

“It’s all about convenience,” says Smith. “It's all about taste and flavor, but it's also about nutrition.”

Backpackers’ Pantry meals range from Pad Thai to Fettucine Alfredo to homestyle stews, available in meat and vegetarian options.

And traditionally, customers are hungry campers and hikers on overnight adventures.

But the pandemic has given the company new purpose.

“What we've experienced during Covid is a lot of panic buying,” said Smith. “People weren't sure the grocery stores were going to have food.”

They responded by delivering to frontline workers, disaster areas, and firefighters.

And they box meal kits for families to have on-hand in emergencies.

“It’s a great weekender to keep in your car,” said Smith. “It's a great emergency food supply to keep in your pantry or your front closet if you have to flee your house.”

American Outdoor Products won Company Week’s 2020 Colorado Manufacturer’s Award for "Outstanding Food Brand". And, they totaled their entire 2019 online sales in two weeks in April, proving compassion is a recipe that will always keep them on the right path.

“If we can help to move the dial on food insecurity in some way, that's important to me,” says Smith. “That's part of our mission.”

Soraya Smith took over as president of American Outdoor Products after her husband Rodney Smith died tragically in a skiing accident in January. She says carrying on the family business was her way of honoring him.

If you'd like to learn more about Backpackers’ Pantry, download Denver7 to your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, or Android device and look for the “In Good Company” section.