1951: DRI-LITE FOODS
In 1951, an ill-fated trip involving heavy canned foods, a long mountain trek, and a group of increasingly demoralized Girl Scouts forever altered the course of what was thought to be possible in outdoor dining. The troop leader went home more inspired than disheartened, and was motivated to create a lighter, more manageable, just-add-water option for outdoor adventurers. She succeeded in that mission, and Dri-Lite Foods became the first adventure food on the market. Anne Benedict started dehydrating meals in her garage, but quickly realized a growing demand for lightweight meals designed for the backcountry. Twenty years later, her small outdoor company was purchased by Ronald Smith after a backpacking trip in the Sierras sparked his passion for the outdoors. With the help of a small but dedicated team, Ronald transformed the Girl Scouts' inspired idea into one of the world’s foremost producers of freeze-dried meals.
1971: BACKPACKER'S PANTRY
When Ron bought Dri-Lite Foods in 1971, he immediately focused on finding food-conducive packaging and a new look, logo, and name in order to make the dehydrated food retail-ready. Ron's wife, Jan, and the former owner of Dri-Lite Foods, Anne, dove into recipe development. After a lot of trial and error, they came up with recipes that were not only convenient, but also enjoyable to eat. Delicious and diverse meals have always been, and will continue to be, of utmost importance to Backpacker's Pantry.
While Backpacker's Pantry has always offered a wide range of gourmet backpacking meals, people did not care as much about recipe variety or dietary accommodations in the '70s & '80s. Those who were adventuring simply needed food that was lightweight and convenient. It wasn't until the late '80s and '90s, when backpacking and the outdoor industry truly began to take off, that these preferences began to shift.
Over the past decade, Backpacker's Pantry has focused on meeting this demand by creating authentic recipes that use healthy and sustainable ingredients, making environmentally sound business decisions, and increasing philanthropic efforts. The company has become 100% solar powered, successfully offsets all carbon emissions from shipping, and plans to produce sustainable packaging in the near future.
Ron gives credit to his late son and former President of AOP, Rodney Smith, for placing great emphasis on increasing Backpacker's Pantry's charitable donations. Rodney was constantly looking for ways to give back to the community we love, the places we adventure, and the planet we must protect. Because of Rodney, Backpacker's Pantry is proud to be a member of 1% For The Planet, legacy partners with the Conservation Alliance, Cal-Wood, and SOIL, and a supporter of many other non-profit organizations. In the food niche of the outdoor industry, Backpacker's Pantry has been and will continue to be a philanthropic pioneer.