A local meal replacement startup is ready to take it to the next level with a retail strategy that will soon have it in some of the province’s biggest grocery stores.
Meal in a Jar, which started in 2012 with local mom Irene Divaris, started as a way to provide healthy food options on the go without having to sacrifice good nutrition and taste. The recipes grew out of her kitchen and the local company was soon filling out orders for local tech companies and catering events.
“The companies would buy some jars and store them in their fridges and the workers could grab them for a quick meal after hours when their kitchen facilities were closed,” said Divaris.
But the attraction of Meal in a Jar was that you could see what you were eating, all contained within the glass jar. A simple shake and you were ready to eat a full balanced meal with less than 500 calories, five grams of fiber and two full cups of fresh vegetables locally sourced from area farms.
The concept was a hit for everyone who tried them and Divaris soon had a professional kitchen to fill the demand. But the “mompreneur” still had plans to scale it up and get it into a retail setting in addition to the catering and special orders she was doing on a weekly basis.
That next step came on Feb. 6 when she announced a partnership with Little Short Stop Stores, which has its head office in Cambridge, to make those healthy meals available at select stores.
Those stores will become pick up locations for the 15 different recipes found on the company’s website at www.mealinajar.com.
Divaris said her customers were looking for some healthy fast food options, and being available in local convenience stores satisfied that demand. That includes some of their most popular recipes like beef teriyaki and curry chicken.
“With the Little Short Stop’s help, our customers will find it easier than even to get their Meal in a Jar,” she said.
It’s also a part of a planned expansion that Divaris said will have Meal in a Jar available in grocery stores throughout the province.
Meal replacements are a growing segment of the grocery store aisle as people want healthy options but find themselves to0 busy to prepare them.
“People want to eat healthy they just don’t have the time to do it,” said Divaris. “This will help.”
Meal in a Jar’s biggest problem was the use of glass jars. It takes a special process and food handling permits to use glass containers and she couldn’t find a food processor that could handle the volume she was hoping for without changing the packaging.
“Someone suggested that we go to plastic containers,” said Divaris. “But people like to see what they eat, and that’s one of our biggest attractions with Meal in a Jar — they can see the ingredients.”
Other processors could handle the glass jars but the ingredients would have to come cooked and prepared before they could go in the container. With some of her dishes containing meat, Divaris said,that was almost an impossible requirement to meet on her end.
Divaris finally managed to find a food processor based out of Mississauga that could handle both the volume and the strict food handling procedures needed. The company could also do the recipe preparation in house.
“It was exactly what we needed,” said Divaris. “We could start doing the volumes we needed to get into grocery stores.”
The plan is to ramp up production to 10,000 jars a week. The jars last about seven days with refrigeration, and production will follow the popularity of the recipes available.
Divaris knows that there is other meal replacement competition out there with companies even willing to ship boxes of ingredients and cooking instructions right to your door.
But when it comes to convenience and nutrition, she thinks Meal in a Jar is ready to take the ready-made-meal market by storm — all for under
“We’re ready for take off,” said Divaris. “This is a game changer for us.”