British company HotCans has been selling self-heating meals for decades, nearly three, to be exact. Their latest marketing push, however, is brand new; they are trying to bring self-heating meals out of the bunker and into your kitchen.
Each HotCan looks like a double wide food can. Inside, an actual can of food is surrounded by a bladder of water and below it, a pile of powdered limestone. You activate the whole contraption by using an enclosed spike to pound holes through the water bladder. The water flows out into the limestone and, as anyone who has mixed cement knows, gets hot. Let your meal sit for 8-12 minutes, and your meal is, theoretically, ready to be consumed.
Hot food at your desk sounds fantastic in theory. Why waste time waiting around the company microwave when you can punch a couple holes in your HotCan and get back to work? Well the problem is its never that easy. As this Guardian article points out, there is something slightly unsettling about having a somewhat violent exothermic reaction bobbling around on your desk. Although attractively labeled, their menu selection isn't exactly cutting edge either. Three out of seven of their choices boil down to beans with sauce, although the prospect of getting rice pudding out of a can is somewhat intriguing.
Of course the real problem here is that much of their target audience, British and Americans, have already experienced all the glories of self-heating meals. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are intimately familiar with self-heating meals. While warm foods may be preferable over cold, warm "bangers and beanz" is probably about as exciting as it sounds. What's worse, the trade-offs necessary to make a food shelf stable for five years, are generally the opposite of delicious.
Also, $10 a pop is a bit steep for a meal that only saves you a walk to the microwave.