Military Life

Foods you never knew were invented by the military

The U.S. military has given us so much more than just our freedom. We also have it to thank for these fine foods.
two navy sailors pose with Chester the Cheetah
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 25: Chester Cheetah poses with the troops on the USS Iwo Jima at Pier 88 on May 25, 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for USO of Metropolitan New York)

Grocery shopping these days comes with an entire slew of items that were first made possible by Uncle Sam. Decades after their invention, however, those foods have stuck around for the masses to enjoy. Take a look at these popular food items that you never knew were first introduced by the U.S. Government. 


Crunchy Cheetos, image via Wikimedia Commons.

Yes, Cheetos, as in the stain-your-hands orange crunchers that you either love or hate. The cheesy concoction has a much richer history than most realize. The powder that makes Cheetos possible was actually invented by the U.S. military during World War I. Looking for a way to preserve cheese, a dehydrated cheese “dust” was made. Soon after, it was used on foods of all kinds for the military, including noodles, sandwiches, and main dishes. The powder then made its way to Frito Lay after the end of World War II, when they began putting it on puffed, crunchy corn, thus bringing the world the Cheetos we all know and enjoy. 

M&M Chocolates

Anyone who has mailed a care package during the summer knows that chocolate and heat do not mix. That was the very problem candy makers faced during WWII; they wanted to be able to distrubute chocolate to soldiers (who definitely deserved a pick-me-up like a sweet treat!) without it melting and making a huge mess. Enter Forrest Mars Sr., of MarsBars fame, who created a candy coating that could withstand much higher temperatures. As sugar was banned to the public during war rations, it was only made for soldiers to enjoy. Once the rations were lifted, M&Ms were mass-produced and enjoyed by all. 

Sliced Bread

a Navy soldier makes sandwiches with bread, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomatoes.
Culinary Specialist Seaman James Fleming, from New York, prepares sandwiches aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Stennis is currently undergoing an operational training period in preparation for future deployments. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ignacio D. Perez/ Released)

It’s the greatest thing since … bread that wasn’t pre-sliced. Which was actually cut and then treated by “anti-staling” ingredient that kept bread fresh enough to travel to soldiers, especially who were stationed overseas. Prior to the new addition, bread would have molded before it could be enjoyed by soldiers waiting for its nourishment. To combat this, the military hired professionals to increase its shelf life, therefore creating more foods its forces could eat. The rest of the world simply got to reap the benefits. 

Pre-Packaged Items

Once again, items were made shelf-stable due to the need for long-lasting food items. Through the process of high-pressure sealing, fresh foods were made to last over a long period of time. This process is still used today for guacamole, deli meats, salsas, and hummus. 

Instant Coffee

Airmen speak with Chief Master Sgt. Tracey House, the superintendent assigned to the 28th Medical Group, over a cup of coffee during a “Coffee with the Commanders” event at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., Nov. 20, 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Donald C. Knechtel)

Coffee has been enjoyed by soldiers since before the country even existed. However, it was hard to come by and instead, they created subpar alternatives. That is, until it was made portable with the invention of instant coffee. By freeze-drying very small grounds, coffee could be made quickly, and without additional equipment.


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