Review: Forever Fresh Freeze-Dried Meals

I assume, like me, you’ve been on some hikes, probably closer to the start of the month, when you’ve still got some money in the bank and thought you’d spoil yourself with one or two of those fancy, ultra-light freeze-dried meals. I mean, the description on the packet makes it sound like it’ll be the best meal you’ve ever had.

If you can relate to that, then, like me, you’ve most likely been a little disappointed when, two days into your adventure, the meal in your bowl isn’t even in the same postal code as the description on the packet… This is not one of those meals.

Testing a variety of Forever Fresh meals in a mountain hut. Photo by Alison Westwood.

Forget what you know about freeze dried meals. When you pick up an unassuming, 100% recyclable Forever Fresh packet that says “Slow Cooked Lamb Tagine”, or “Mild & Creamy Butter Chicken”, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s just another bit of marketing that’ll later let you down on the trail. Fear not! This stuff is amazing!! I know this is supposed to be an unbiased review and too many exclamation marks seems unprofessional, but it feels like the correct response… BEST LIGHTWEIGHT MEAL EVER!!!

Who Is Forever Fresh?

Okay, I’ll reign it in a bit with a backstory. Forever Fresh is the brainchild of Jason Perthel, who I had the privilege of hiking with on two sections of the Rim of Africa Cape Mountain Traverse in 2019. Jason had recently retired and was looking for something big to mark the transition into the next chapter of his life, so he signed up for the toughest, longest, wildest guided mountain traverse in the country… as one does.

Jason Perthel deep in the Cape mountains.

Fully aware of the magnitude of the challenge, he started looking at ways to reduce the weight of his backpack as much as possible. After purchasing the lightest hiking gear known to man, he set about the task of putting together the lightest possible hiking menu. Bear in mind that the Rim of Africa is 750-800km long, spread over nine sections and takes two months to complete, so it’s not as easy as just buying all the 2-Minute Noodles and calling it a day. You actually need some nutrition for an adventure that long, and I dare say, some variety to keep you sane.

Long story short, Jason tried all the dehydrated and freeze-dried food options available at the time and thought: “I can do a better job”. Having trail-tested his own product on the Rim of Africa, he thought other hikers might also enjoy a lightweight meal that tastes the way it reads on the packet, and so Forever Fresh was born.

Taste & Texture

The taste and texture of almost all the Forever Fresh meals is as good as if you had just prepared the meal from scratch in a kitchen. Actually, that’s wrong… I couldn’t make a meal as tasty or well balanced as some of the Forever Fresh meals. They’re brilliant!

Naturally there are some exceptions. Due to the nature of the freeze drying process, some of the elements of a dish get broken up when dry, so the lasagne, although tasty, is more of a mince and pasta situation, rather than the layered creation you’re used to.

One or two hikers said they found some of the meals a little on the salty side, but other than that, every meal was a delight.

Knowing that everything tastes better out in nature, I prepared some of their meals at home and the experience was exactly the same: Restaurant-grade meals – just add water and heat.

Nutrition/Energy

Forever Fresh has taken an interesting approach to portion sizes. All meals are measured out at 300g “wet weight” and then get put through the freeze-drying process. As you can imagine, there is a lot more water and a lot less energy in 300g of vegetable lasagne, than there is in 300g of chilli con carne. This results in slight variation in “dry” meal weight and quite substantial variation in calories.

Thus, there is no set “serves 2” or “serves 1” instruction with these meals necessarily. Rather, you need to pick your meal, or meals, depending on the energy you require, based on your size and the difficulty of the hike. If you’re 1.8m tall and weigh 90kg+, you’re going to need more calories than someone smaller and lighter. Similarly, you’re going to require more energy for the Amatola than you would while slackpacking the Whale Trail.

At home, or on a relaxed weekend hike, I found I could share some of the more calorie-dense meals with my wife, but on a more strenuous adventure, I would happily finish a meal on my own.

Build your own

There is something for everyone. Vegetarian, wheat-free, you can even pick your sides, which is a feature I really enjoy. Sometimes you want a tasty meal, but you need to bulk it up a bit, in which case you can just add the calorie-dense side of your choice. They also sell single ingredients, like freeze-dried egg, or mixed-veg.

However, for the times that you’re wanting quality over quantity, the Forever Fresh sides are hard to beat. The added texture and taste of the Quinoa and Almond Flakes when paired with the Lamb Tagine is a match made in heaven.

Preparation

In addition to being ultra-light, freeze-dried meals are also very energy efficient to prepare. The rehydration process requires no heat, only time. Once the food has sat for long enough to fully rehydrate, all you have to do is heat it to your desired temperature, which makes your gas last longer.

A process that worked well for me was to add water to my meal as soon as we would get to camp and by the time tents have been set up and you’ve put on some dry clothes, all you have to do is heat and eat. The packets state a soaking time of 8-10 minutes, but I found 20-25 minutes to be more realistic, especially for the meals that contain meat.

Sustainability

Forever Fresh have really gone the extra mile to make their products as sustainable and eco friendly as possible.

They decided to forego the cook-in-the-bag option so that they could keep all their packaging 100% recyclable. However, to accommodate those who enjoy the cook-in-the-bag convenience, they sell resealable, reusable, food-grade silicone pouches.

Their freeze-drying process is also 100% solar powered. This, combined with the fact that their meals are produced locally, requiring no international shipping, means that their carbon footprint is kept to an absolute minimum.

Conclusion

Proudly South African, eco friendly, lightweight, delicious and at a competitive price… Forever Fresh freeze-dried meals are hands down the best lightweight, ready-made meal available in South Africa. If you need more convincing, Forever Fresh won GO!-hiking magazine’s 2021 hiking meal shout out.

Check out their delicious range of freeze-dried meals at https://bit.ly/3u4DKH7.

About Arno van der Heever 48 Articles
Co-founder of Hiking South Africa, Arno loves the outdoors and finds joy in sharing it with others. He is a qualified mountain guide, a keen rock climber and has a "thing" for technical backpacks and footwear.

7 Comments

  1. I followed the forever fresh journey pre-launch and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the meals to try them out. I craved a light meat option for the trail, and I believed Forever Fresh could be it.

    On launch week a mate and I bought a few meals and I wish I felt the same way you have expressed in this article; I didn’t have the same experience. I really struggled with them. Maybe it was the batch but I doubt it. I have a full lamb stew left and I can’t bring myself to try it and my mate felt the same.

    Mama Alles is a really great hiking option in my opinion, far superior to Forever Fresh dispite it not having any meat options.

    Jason has done an incredible job building the brand and everyone seems to be flashing the meals on every trail. This past weekend we stopped in at Marble baths on a multiday in Drakensberg and there were two serious hikers also passing through but spending some time taking photos and the one guy said to the other “Grab the Forvever Fresh” and snapped it in a few shots. I looked at my friend, he looked at me, and I could see he felt the same way I did, thinking “I wish I felt the same way about it”.

    We ate Jolof rice later on that day from Mama Alles. I will give Forever Fresh another go in the future and while i marvel at their hard work and ability to get the brand out there, for now my pack will just have to be a little heavier.

    • Hi there Edwin,
      My name is Maxine – I am a part of the Forever Fresh team. We were saddened to hear that your experience with us was not up to the standard we pride ourselves on. However, constructive criticism will greatly help us improve our business. Could you please send us an email on info@foreverfresh.co.za so that we can chat further about what did not work for you and how we can improve?
      Looking forward to hearing from you.

  2. Why can’t I order your food. I live in the US in Florida and Colorado but when I place the order it says it doesn’t ship there. Ken Hodges

    • Hi Kenneth,
      Maxine from Forever Fresh here.
      Unfortunately we cant ship internationally at this moment but we hope to achieve this soon. Feel free to send us an email on info@foreverfresh.co.za and we will email you once this option becomes available. Have a great day further 🙂

  3. I’d just like to add phenomenal customer service to this list.
    Friends are I were going on a hike and had planned to take Forever Fresh meals but when we looked online there weren’t any in stock.
    Not ones to give up, we sent an email and the Forever Fresh team made a plan for us and ensured we got our meals before we left for our hike.

    We thoroughly enjoyed our meals and, this could be in my head, but the fact that they were so light made them that much tastier :p

    I think this is an entirely accurate review and I appreciate how you’ve noted that the calories vary depending on the meal.

    • Hi Cindy,
      Thank you so much for your kind words – all greatly appreciated. We are smiling this side! Hope to see you back soon 🙂

  4. I have just returned from 2 nights in the berg, we were a group of 9 and we purchased 10 Meals and 6 sides to see us through on our hike.
    This was the first time i have ever used ForeverFresh so it felt abit risky relying on a new product, but the reviews convinced me to give it a go.

    The food was all FANTASTIC! having only used BackCountry Cuisine I was so pleasantly surprised by how fresh tasty and filling the ForeverFresh meals were.

    My only frustration came with a product packaging i have become so used to adding boiling water to the packet then eating from the bag. This means no dirty pot and no dirty bowl. But now using Forever Fresh we had dirty dishes and limited water made this a problem. We had 2x the silicone bags but those are a mission to clean too…

    The website ordering and online chat help and delivery were all so smooth it truly was a great to get such a top quality product locally made with such little effort.

    Just please ForeverFresh could you consider packaging meals in a foil bag with some extra volume?

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