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Alexandria entrepreneur finds success with organic kids' meals

Thursday - 9/15/2011, 3:55am  ET

Stouffer.jpg
Heather Stouffer, CEO of Mom Made Meals, at her Alexandria headquarters. (WTOP Photo/Amy Hunter)
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Amy Hunter, wtop.com

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - Tucked away in a small office complex in Alexandria, Va., Heather Stouffer and her staff of four spend their days building a now-national frozen food brand of all organic children's meals.

It's called Mom Made Meals, and it's a unique option that's fast, healthy and targeted to kids.

"This was just one of those things that sunk into me and wouldn't leave me alone," Stouffer says.

"The whole notion was to create a brand that parents can trust. To take kid-friendly recipes, and then take out all the junk, all the chemicals and the process ingredients and just make them really clean, healthy, and the best nutritionally on the market."

Stouffer, a 37-year-old Alexandria resident, started the business five years ago when her son Emory was about 1 year old. She and her husband were both working full-time -- she in the technology industry and he as a newspaper reporter -- and they were struggling to get dinner on the table each night before 9 p.m.

In search of an easy, quick and nutritious dinner option, Stouffer realized there wasn't one.

"I am often very busy. But I won't cut corners when it comes to my kids," she says. "I quit my job, I kept my child in full-time day care, and then I did full time business planning for seven months."

In June of 2006, Stouffer launched Mom Made Meals at the Del Ray Farmers' Market in Alexandria. She stood behind a card table that morning peddling the four baby food products she'd created over the last year, and began her sometimes challenging climb to CEO of a national food brand.

Today, Stouffer specializes in healthy frozen foods for kids. Her products include Cheesy Mac, which is made with sweet potato and butternut squash puree, Bite-Size Turkey Meatballs, Cheese Pizza "Munchies," and Bean Burritos, to name a few.

Her Cheesy Mac, which was the brand's top seller until June's launch of Turkey Meatballs, includes peas and a cheesy sauce, all 100 percent organic with 200 calories per serving. The meal also has far less sodium than others of its kind: 340 milligrams compared to 623 milligrams in Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

Stouffer's Turkey Meatballs are "the cleanest meatball on the market," she says, explaining she uses less filler than others on the market, which she says rely heavily on bread crumbs.

Her foods also include a "munchie" line, which are small, handheld pockets wrapped in whole grains.

"We've got a huge obesity epidemic in the United States right now, and we're doing our part to help that change," Stouffer says. "Particularly when parents are looking for something convenient, when they've got a really busy day, that's when they cave. They go to the drive-thru or pull out a box of something. And there is no reason to jeopardize your child's nutrition when you do that."

Mom Made Meals are available locally at Whole Foods, Yes! Organic Market and Roots.

To learn more, click here.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)