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Mike McDevitt, CEO of Terra’s Kitchen, seen here holding a cooked plate of food with eco-friendly delivery vessel that the business uses to deliver its pre prepped ingredients to its customers. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Baltimore food startup promises easy access to healthy food

Boneless chicken breasts being pan-seared in Terra's Kitchen's test kitchen. (The Daily Record/Maximilan Franz)

Boneless chicken breasts being pan-seared in Terra’s Kitchen’s test kitchen. (The Daily Record/Maximilan Franz)

When pressed for time, it’s easy to turn to unhealthy fast food options. But a new meal delivery service wants people to plan ahead and resist that temptation.

Starting next month, Terra’s Kitchen, based in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood, will send pre-packaged, healthy meals that can be heated up and ready to eat in 30 minutes. Users can pick their meals at the beginning of the week and get them delivered in a Terra’s Kitchen cooler.

The company’s meals are packaged to minimize the work that comes with preparing healthy meals, such as cutting up and preparing vegetables. The company expects customers to use the service for three to four dinners a week.

Terra’s Kitchen’s meals cost between $12 and $19.

“It’s not an everyday solution. It’s a solution that you fit into your lifestyle,” said Michael McDevitt, CEO of Terra’s Kitchen.

Mike Tyler, marketing manager at Terra's Kitchen works with Megan Pollard, corporate relations, reviewing some promotional material designs in the Terra’s Kitchen office in Fells Point. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Mike Tyler, marketing manager at Terra’s Kitchen works with Megan Pollard, corporate relations, reviewing some promotional material designs in the Terra’s Kitchen office in Fells Point. (The Daily Record/Maximilian Franz)

Formerly CEO of Medifast, McDevitt is no stranger to the business of healthy living and eating. At Medifast, McDevitt focused on the weight loss business but said he struggled with finding ways to get people to keep the weight off. He faces the same question with his own family.

“What do we do inside the clock to stay healthy?”

Terra’s Kitchen is McDevitt’s answer to that question.

McDevitt tried a series of meal-kit services, including HelloFresh and Blue Apron, a New York-based startup that recently recruited Under Armour CFO Brad Dickerson. But McDevitt was unhappy with the amount of waste the delivery packaging was producing from its brown boxes and ice boxes. He was also unhappy with the longer meal preparation times. So he and his team spent a year trying to find a solution.

Terra’s Kitchen delivers its meals using an “eco-friendly vessel” that can be shipped back  to the company. To shorten meal preparation times, the vegetables in the kit are pre-cut.

While the company has the capacity to ship to 80 percent of the United States, it’s going to focus its efforts in the Baltimore area.

“We’re going to be more of a localized business,” said McDevitt.  “Baltimore will be our real, official launch of the business.”

Terra’s Kitchen is partnering with several local businesses, including Union Brewery, 3greenmoms, Zeke’s Coffee, Nava Health & Vitality Center and YMCA.

The company, which had a soft opening on the West Coast last year, will enter the $1 billion and growing meal-kit delivery industry. CNBC reported last year that services such as Blue Apron and HelloFresh were growing in demand because they give customers easy access to gourmet and specialty foods without going to a restaurant.

“The feedback thus far has been absolutely tremendous,” said McDevitt.

That said, only around 1 percent of adults in the U.S. have used a meal-kit delivery service, mainly within the 18-to-44 age, CNBC reported. The services are most popular among households with an annual income of $75,000 or more. The meals often cost more than buying groceries or getting take-out from a restaurant.