History of Civilian MREs
Before 2000 (Y2K), only two companies – Sopakco and Wornick – produced civilian MREs. Sopakco had the “Sure-Pak 12” and “M-Packed” brands while Wornick offered the “Mil-Spec” brand of MREs. Around 2001, after the Y2K-inspired rush to stock up on food and other emergency supplies ended, Wornick dropped out of the civilian MRE business and Sopakco dropped the M-Packed line – leaving the “Sure-Pak 12” as the only civilian MRE available. There were other homemade civilians MREs out there but those were mostly MREs put together out of spare or old MRE parts and pieces.
Around 2005, after Hurricane Katrina hit, the civilian MRE market picked back up and more companies began producing legitimate, branded civilian MREs. All three of the major manufacturers of MREs for the military (Ameriqual, Sopakco, and Wornick) started producing their own civilian MREs. Additionally, three other companies have join the market with their own civilian MRE products – Meal Kit Supply (serving both the US and Canada), and MREStar.
Civilian MREs Currently Available:
Civilian MREs or Military MREs?
People interested in obtaining MREs for camping, hiking, or emergency supplies often ask “Should I buy military MREs or are civilian MREs ok?” Up until 2005, that answer was always that military MREs were far better than most civilian alternatives. The older civilian MRE did not contain as much food, had different or inferior components, and did not offer much variety. But with the latest Sopakco Sure-Paks, Ameriqual APacks, Meal Kit Supply MREs , MREStar MREs, and Wornick Eversafes those concerns no longer apply.
As you can see on the Civilian MRE Comparison page, the calorie count of most civilian MREs is fairly close to the 1,250 calories in military MREs. For the most part, civilian MREs use the exact same components (food, spoons, heaters, etc.) as the military MREs. And even though most civilian MREs do not quite offer the same variety of 12 different meals per case, the variety and rate at which the manufacturers change their menus has improved.
Civilian MREs average around $75 per case while military MREs can be found on eBay for $50-$60 per case. Even though the civilian MREs may be more expensive, they have a couple of advantages over military MREs:
Private Label Civilian MREs
Besides the name brand civilian MREs mentioned above, you might see some other MREs out there that will be referred to as “Private Label” or “Store Brand” civilian MREs. These MREs are put together on a custom basis in small batches by people or companies that want their own brand of MREs. These MREs are often called “MRE Full Meals”, “Field Ready Rations”, or just generic “Meals, Ready to Eat”. Most places are up-front about how these MREs are locally produced but be careful about places selling them as “Military Rations” or “Military-like MREs” in an attempt to make you think they’re the actual military version of the MRE.
Private Label MREs can be a good deal and have their advantages and disadvantages over the name brand civilian MREs. On the advantage side, they can sometimes be cheaper than the brand name civilian MREs. For example, CheaperThanDirt.com sells a case of their own private label MREs here for $49.97. They also sell the Ameriqual APack MREs for $69.97 here. The main difference between these two types of MREs is that APacks contain an average of 1,200 calories per MREs vs. 500 calories for CheaperThanDirt.com‘s MREs. For someone wanting to save money and have more of a “lunch” MRE, these private label MREs could be a better deal.
Another example of private label MREs would be LongLifeFood.com’s own brand. These MREs sell for $92 per case vs. the name brand Wornick Eversafe MREs they also sell here for $82. In this case, the private label MREs are actually more expensive than the name brand versions.
The disadvantage of private label MREs is that you don’t always get a complete menu listing of the contents. In many cases, you’re just told you’ll receive 12 meals, each with an entree, side, bakery item, spread, beverage base, etc. but you won’t know the exact menu items or what kind of mix you’ll receive. Will you get a case of 12 “Omelet with Cheese” MREs? Does the company consider a “Clam Chowder” to actually be a full entree and not a side? These are questions that could affect your satisfaction with your purchase. While the websites selling many of these private label MREs might not have a detailed description of the contents, you could always contact them and ask for the details before you make a purchase.
Here are some pictures of these private label civilian MREs:
Where Can I Buy Civilian MREs?
Check out the Buying Civilian MREs page. Also see the individual civilian MRE pages (linked above) for dealers of specific MRE brands.
Old and No Longer Produced Civilian MREs
The “Menu C ” brand of civilian MRE is no longer produced. See this page for historical information on them. For historical purposes, the old, now outdated, Civilian MRE pages can be found here: old Civilian MRE pages