Frezze dryers and the history
Freeze dryers historically had two main markets: food manufacturers and Mormons.
Mormon doctrine encourages keeping a year's worth of food supplies on hand at all times, and freeze drying reduces the weight and size of food while making perishables last 25-30 years. More broadly, the preparedness industry was accelerated by the pandemic and supply-chain issues this year have only increased concerns.
freeze-drying and its popularity
For a kitchen gadget, freeze dryers represent a hefty investment, running at $2,000-$3,500 apiece. But amortizing that over the cost of a year's worth of food makes the price look lower. They also help avoid waste, since freeze-dried food takes decades to spoil. And the process preserves most of the nutritional value, while dehydration reduces it by 40% and canning by 50%.
Freeze drying is becoming more popular though among the typical consumer. Since it removes water from foods, it makes fruits much more sugary. Buyers like the taste and companies that sell foods like cereal like the fact that they can say “no sugar added” even though the product tastes much sweeter than it otherwise would with the water content diluting the flavor. They're also popular as a way to make homemade dog food, and as a way to dry cannabis while preserving its potency.
Today, there's one major consumer-facing brand of freeze dryers, Harvest Right, which sells direct online and through some retail stores. On Alibaba, freeze dryers are available for as little as $500 per unit for bulk orders, indicating that there’s room for new brands to profitably enter the space.