When Rachel and Andy Berliner launched Amy’s Kitchen in 1987, they knew they wanted to bring the world a slice of the magic that existed around their own Petaluma, California, kitchen table. And that’s exactly what the couple accomplished.
Amy’s Kitchen began with one vegetable potpie and has grown into an ever-expanding line of more than 250 organic, vegan, and vegetarian products. In addition, in California, there are five free-standing Amy’s Drive Thru restaurants where customers can get the goodness of Amy’s Kitchen on the go. But family has long been the secret sauce that makes Amy’s Kitchen successful.
Even in the earliest days of building the brand, Amy’s Kitchen was a family affair with multiple kin involved, including Rachel Berliner’s mother. “My mom is a great cook, and so I’ve got a sense of what food should taste like,” Rachel Berliner said on “The Bite Goes On” podcast. “And that’s what I do with the company a lot, developing the meals and designing them and coming up with ideas. She wrote all the copy on the original boxes. She still very actively comes up with ideas and things.”
Paul Schiefer, now president of Amy’s Kitchen, says family has been integral since the company’s inception.
“We’ve always started from the very first day with this premise that every meal we serve should be good enough, taste good enough that we would serve it to our closest friends and family,” Schiefer says. “And the way to do that is by finding the highest quality ingredients, working directly with farmers and growers on varieties and processing techniques so we get the best thing to start with.”
Image via MidJourney
Grounded in Goodness and a Familial Love
“I actually saw this firsthand through my own eyes,” Schiefer said on “Responsibly Different Podcast.” “They were huge foodies. They had their own organic garden at their house. They ate really well. They were vegetarian. It’s such a beautiful story. It’s such an honest and humble beginning to a business.”
When Rachel Berliner was pregnant, her husband went on a quest to the local organic grocery store to find some easy-prep vegetarian meals. The couple weren’t thrilled with the options, so they figured other people must be in the same boat and whipped up some tasty meals at home. Once again, the couple’s intuition proved to be correct.
Over the past 36 years, it states on amy’s.com that “Amy’s Kitchen has grown beyond the Berliner’s wildest dreams, going from several family members pitching in anywhere they can to a wonderful group of employees, farmers, and suppliers.” But regardless of how much the company grows, the family spirit is still the driving force in every decision made within Amy’s Kitchen.
“We strive to maintain our values as a family-owned company while we continue to grow,” Andy Berliner mentioned in a letter about his company. “We are committed to always learning, listening, and improving. And, as we remain committed to cooking quality, healthy, and organic food for you and your family.”
That’s why making more family packs of its most popular foods available was another no-brainer. This fall, Amy’s Kitchen released multipacks of its Bean, Rice, and Cheese Burrito made with white cheddar and Monterey Jack, and its dairy-free Bean and Rice Burrito. The quick heat-and-eat dining option was created to give families more bang for their buck in this challenging economy.
“We know that inflation has been difficult,” Schiefer emphasizes. “We also know that a lot of families really are balancing child care with work and life, and they need something that really tastes good, that’s convenient, and feeds the whole family at an affordable price. And our family packs are intended to do that.”
Keeping open lines of communication with its loyal customers is another way Amy’s Kitchen can make its fans feel like family. Rachel Berliner still reads the “love letters” or consumer feedback that hits Amy’s Kitchen headquarters.
“I do love reading letters from Amy’s fans who discover our ‘free-from’ foods and tell us things like: ‘Thank you — I thought my life was over’ and ‘I thought I’d never eat my favorite foods again,’” Rachel Berliner said in an interview with the Talented Ladies Club. “It’s wonderful that we can make food that really has such an impact on people’s everyday lives.”
Even the process of how Amy’s Kitchen collaborates on its next big recipe is through recruiting the tasty input of family and friends.
“We go out and just eat great food, eat it with our family, with our friends, with our employees,” Schiefer says. “That could be here in our offices with guest chefs. That can be out at restaurants, literally all across the world.”
Rachel Berliner added that even after expanding to 11 countries, the company maintains its grassroots approach to making food.
“We just use recipes, friends’ recipes,” Rachel Berliner said on “The Bite Goes On.” “We work in our kitchens, even though we’re a big company.”
Some of the entity’s more exotic creations are the result of input from their workers’ families.
“Somebody in the plant came up with our Thai food, happened to have a family that had a Thai restaurant,” Rachel Berliner said on the “Lead With We” podcast. “I travel around the world, and I find a recipe I like. We find things in Mexico. We wanted to come out with the Indian meals. I have a lot of Indian friends and I knew who was the best cook and they came in and they showed us how to make it so it’s very authentic, home-cooked Indian meals. We roast our own spices.”