The label survivalist and prepper aren’t usually endearing ones, although they took on an all-new luster when COVID-19 broke out in North America. Members of those fraternities hunkered down, feasted on the food they’d carefully accumulated—when prices were low, by the way—and didn’t need to schedule shopping trips to coincide with the Charmin truck’s arrival. Their forethought also reduced exposure to the virus during the height of the pandemic.

Years ago, there was no shortage of companies catering to members of the “survival” clan. That was long before the pandemic, though, when bulk packs of popular single-serve backpacking meals were available. There were also military varieties, including Meals Ready to Eat (MRE), which have always been on the market and readily available at a variety of outlets, including surplus stores and gun shows. Buying a case or two didn’t even raise an eyebrow back then.

But the Berlin Wall came down and, because “normal” people never dreamed a microscopic virus could attack the entire planet, that market took a dive. Many of the firms that specialized in the dehydrated food with a half-life longer than xenon-124 vanished. Their Cold War approach came roaring back in 2020’s collision of social unrest, disease and the seemingly inexplicable disappearance of shipping containers.

Those big, often waterproof, containers of dehydrated food that help families survive for days, weeks and months are apparently more popular than ever. If you’re like me, you probably haven’t really noticed the resurgence. I did when I visited my grocery store and discovered the one-gallon containers of pickled pigs feet I purchased to frighten unwanted visitors out of my office have vanished (seriously, open the pungent jar and ask if they’re hungry). That sacred spot on the shelf is now occupied by big selection of survival food in airtight polymer

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