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Mixing it Up With Terra’s Kitchen

Quick-preparation meals can free up family time.

Terra's Kitchen founder Mike McDevitt / photography via Terra's Kitchen

Terra’s Kitchen encourages experimentation: meal kits include a menu card, featuring some talking points for the table, but consumers make the experience their own. People can add different spices or try different cooking techniques to customize more than 75 meal options, while remaining confident that their meal is fundamentally healthy. The three-year-old, Baltimore-based company’s philosophy is rooted in spending more time with the people you love. After growing up around the family table, chief executive and founder Mike McDevitt is hoping to appeal to consumers over 35 with similar memories and nostalgia. Quiddity spoke with the CEO about health and wellness, aiming for Amazon speeds with fresh food, and elevating the stories of consumers.

How does your company’s heritage help you build trust with your consumers?
Our promise to our consumers is really three-prong: health, convenience, and sustainability. Consumers weigh their options differently based on their lives. We’re always going to work to ensure that the meals we offer are healthy. “Healthy” is a word that can be defined differently for different folks. For us, it’s really about “fresh,” but also about how macro- and micro-nutrients affect the body, to help you improve yourself and get better. In a world where you’re always striving to be healthy, but convenience is often dominant over health, we’re trying to be the combination of the two. Healthy meals that are able to be prepared in under 30 minutes—those are the two things that stand out for consumers. Sustainability is often something consumers learn after the fact, not why they choose us the first time.

How do consumers generally learn more about your brand’s heritage?
We are a company that strives to get our brand out there thru different forms of marketing and PR. What we've learned is that by far the most common way for a consumer to come to Terra’s Kitchen is through word of mouth. They hear someone talking about it at the office or at the gym, then they go online and research it. Consumers have the ability to dig in much more now with the internet. They read reviews, articles, third-party reports, and more.

It was less about the dinner table for our consumer base as it was about the optimizing of a healthy meal.

What’s one way you’ve recently connected your history to contemporary trends or interests?
There's a huge trend going on now for optimization and hacks. People are so busy. Everyone is trying to find ways to better use their time. When we launched Terra’s Kitchen, we launched it with a purpose of helping get families back around the dinner table. What we've learned from our consumers is that the time they save is great. But it's more about getting the dinner on the table, so they can do other things in their lives, whether it's kids’ sports or going to yoga. It was less about the dinner table for our consumer base as it was about the optimizing of a healthy meal.

If you could identify one brand as an ancestor, which would it be?
Dyson vacuums. I've been a consumer of Dyson products for as long as I can remember. I love the way they took the industry that was dominated by major players and created a better product over time. They continue to grow as a snowball. I love their products, I love their brand, I love the simplicity of what they do.

Which social media platform, if any, are you focusing on to share your company’s story?
We’re in that 35-to-45 and then that 50-65 year old range. We’re seeing sites like LinkedIn and Facebook have great impact on us. More so than that, the Twitters and Instagrams. We're focusing on where our consumer base is: that 35-plus. We have beautiful photography, and our Creative Culinary Director, Libbie Summers does an excellent job at capturing the beauty of food." For us, it’s about lifting the stories our consumers are sharing about us online. We’ve found that consumers trust consumers moreso when it comes to the food world. Really just using customer testimonials as a way to help gain the confidence of those potential customers. For us it's not so much taking a picture of the dinner — food porn — i’s more so sharing the experience, like “I was able to get to my son’s soccer practice on time and I was able to prep a healthy meal beforehand.

What one detail of your founding story has resonated most with consumers?
Honestly, it's the story about how I called my mom to ask my mom for advice on how to be a good parent. I just found out I was going to be a dad. I was scared out of my pants. I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I called my mom and she said, “Mike, just get around the dinner table as often as you can.” That’s something that’s kind of nostalgic—for me, I’m 40 years old, and I grew up with dinner on the table every day. For as crazy as we are today—different screen time, different travel sports—it really rang home with me, and seeing our consumers around my age, I think that rang home with them, too. Just bringing back the images they had of them eating with their family, it got them wanting the same thing with their kids.

We’ve found that consumers trust consumers moreso when it comes to the food world.

What other trends, if any, have influenced your own company?
E-commerce shopping. There is a standard that has been set by Amazon, and it's very difficult for the fresh food world to live up to that standard. We do everything we can to strive to be faster, fresher and cheaper than we were the day before. We’re always out there trying to live up to the new world where people expect to press a button on their phone and get a product delivered within 24 hours.

How do you frame your company’s heritage in relationship to cooking and food?
We’re a small team. We’re a fun team. We have a great culture. Our culture is process-driven, yet also experimental in finding new ways to do something. That’s the way I cook, and that’s the way we encourage our consumers to cook. We’re going to give you a menu card that's going to tell you the process of exactly how you can make this meal the way we made it. You know yourself better than us; if you want to sprinkle a little bit of red pepper to heat it up a little bit, then do so. A lot of times we’ll see our consumers make the first one or two recipes verbatim. By the third or fourth time, they’re feeling a little more confident and personalizing it here and there. We run our company the same way where we want to follow best practices, but we feel comfortable enough in our environment and culture to try new things on a regular basis and see how they work. How we cook is kind of how we work.

How might that story differ for fitness and lifestyle?
There are proven best practices in fitness and lifestyle, but then there’s always the individual way you curtail it to fit your exact needs. The beauty about Terra’s Kitchen is that every meal we offer is going to meet health and wellness needs. We offer over 75 meals at any given time, so you still have this massive variety. You learn to filter the meal options to find how you love to eat, always knowing it is healthy.

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