My passion for healthy eating means that I strive to cook most of our family’s meals using real, wholesome, minimally processed ingredients without artificial additives. During the Summer months, this is understandably easier to achieve than during the school year when our schedules are less flexible and we’re juggling homework, after-school activities, and a host of other “must-dos.” Since fast food is never an option for us and most frozen foods contain ingredients that don’t resemble anything edible, my options are limited to “healthier” convenience meals found at natural markets. Along with added cost and concerns regarding nutrition, I typically find frozen meals to be less than palatable, particularly if they require heating in the microwave. It wasn’t until I discovered Amy’s Kitchen at our local natural market several years ago that I changed my perception of frozen meals.
Late last month, I was invited to tour Amy’s Kitchen and Headquarters located in Northern California as part of my involvement with the Walmart Moms Program. I’ve been eating their frozen meals (particularly the pizzas) and soups for several years, so I was excited about delving into the story behind a company that will change your perception of frozen foods.
Throughout the life of this blog, I’ve had numerous opportunities to visit factories, warehouses and plants. My visit with Amy’s Kitchen was unlike any other media trip…unique and immersive. I got a true sense of this family-owned company’s commitment to helping families eat real food when the busyness of life precludes a home-prepared meal.
Upon arriving into San Francisco, we spent the afternoon exploring the city’s rich foodie culture. I’ve visited San Francisco more times than I can count since my childhood, and this was my very first visit to the Ferry Building Marketplace, which hosts a Certified Farmer’s Market 3 days a week.
After sampling fresh fruits and the juiciest blood orange ever, we had a delicious bay-side lunch at il Cane Rosso and walked around the market briefly. I could have spent all day walking through the artisan market and I plan to go back someday to drink espresso from Blue Bottle Coffee and indulge in ice cream from Humphrey Slocombe!
On the way up to Sonoma County, we stopped for a photo opp on the Golden Gate Bridge, and while I’ve taken photos here a number of times, it was still as breezy and breathtaking as I remember.
Amy’s Kitchen Partners With Walmart
To familiarize ourselves with Amy’s Kitchen, the PR team sent a wide assortment of soups and frozen meals for our family to try prior to my visit, all of which are now being sold at Walmart! I absolutely LOVE that Walmart has taken immense strides to help families like ours have access to Organic Foods at their everyday low prices. And the fact that Walmart is so invested in a company like Amy’s Kitchen that they would send us to the brand’s headquarters is a testament to the fact that they are listening to what their customers want when it comes to healthy choices.
Our day at Amy’s Kitchen started with an intro to their brand new Gluten Free Biscotti! Admittedly, I had no idea just how vast their product lines are, which spans everything from frozen meals and canned soups to ice cream and candy. My son’s dairy allergy combined with my vegetarian lifestyle makes Amy’s Kitchen an ideal choice for our family. All 250+ Amy’s products are vegetarian and free from eggs and peanuts. The number of gluten-free, vegan, and dairy-free foods is so varied and diverse and more expansive than I’ve seen in any Organic line. With an increasing number of people adhering to special diets, Amy’s Kitchen continues to expand their line of cholesterol-free, corn-free, and soy-free products.
Amy’s Kitchen was born out of Andy and Rachel Berliner’s need for healthy, organic meals to get them through the early days of new parenthood. When their daughter Amy was born in 1988, the Berliners were unable to find ready-made meals that met their standards for quality and taste, so they decided to create their own. Amy’s Kitchen was born that year, named after their infant daughter. What started with a simple, delicious Vegetable Pot Pie has now evolved into a worldwide leader in natural and organic convenience food production.
Throughout the day, I constantly found myself being surprised and impressed by the lengths this family goes to in order to ensure consistency and quality. The Berliners are still intricately involved with the workings of the company, with Amy testing and even inventing some of the company’s products. At present, she is apprenticing with her father to learn more about running their family business.
Apart from one of the largest and most mouthwatering tasting lunches ever, walking through the plant was enlightening and inspiring. What I expected were a lot of machines and a handful of people. Nothing could have been further from the reality of what Amy’s Kitchen is doing. Not only do they source their own ingredients and craft their own recipes, nearly all of their products are made inside this plant. Amy’s Kitchen is truly a kitchen where employees wake up before dark to start making rice, beans, and other ingredients for their meals from scratch. Produce is carefully sorted and chopped, fillings and sauces are made daily in 4000 pound kettles to be used in the day’s meal preparation, organic tofu is made from scratch in-house, burritos are hand-rolled and tamales are hand-filled. People rather than machines are doing the work of assembling these meals, packaging them, and checking them for both consistency and quality, retaining the Berliners’ original premise of a handmade, home-cooked meal. Amy’s Kitchen is a pioneer in the organic convenience food industry and I can assure you that what they are doing is a rarity these days.
One of my major concerns with any convenience meal is the ingredient list. It was a huge relief to learn that Amy’s Kitchen only uses certified organic ingredients sourced from organic farms (some of which we visited during our time in Northern California). None of the meals contain GMO’s, hydrogenated fats or oils and the dishes containing dairy are made with rBST hormone-free milk. Every ingredient I saw being used in Amy’s meals was something I’d use in my own kitchen.
As you might imagine, Amy’s Kitchen is also committed to minimizing its carbon footprint and nothing ever goes to a landfill. Second quality food (which honestly I would eat after learning about their high quality standards) is sold at discount markets or donated to local food banks and any food waste is composted and used as cattle feed by local dairy farms. All of the packaging is made from 100% recycled materials and is also 100% compostable. Amy’s Kitchen also uses inks made from vegetable dyes on their boxes and packaging.
After our time at Amy’s Kitchen, we headed over to 2 local Organic farms for a glimpse at the company’s support for agriculture and ecoliteracy programs. Bayer Farm is one such community farm supported by Amy’s, which seeks to teach families about healthy eating through a hands-on approach.
One of the 60 farms Amy’s Kitchen works with is Bloomfield Organics, the goal of which is to help empower organic farmers and support the move towards non-GMO farming. This unique farm is headed up by founder and farmer Mike Collins, who is an industry leader in sustainable agriculture. Talking to him was just fascinating as we learned how he continues to pioneer this industry by planting GMO-blocker corn and using parasitic wasps to eliminate problems with aphids and other pests. This man is so knowledgeable about the industry and I only wish I had more time to chat with him. I highly recommend connecting on Facebook if you at all interested in learning more about these topics.
What’s Next For Amy’s Kitchen?
Along with continuing to expand their product line, Amy’s plans to open a drive-through fast food restaurant in Sonoma County. Can you imagine driving up to an organic fast food restaurant and ordering vegetarian burgers and organic fries? This is like a dream of mine! I seriously hope this concept paves the way for this industry since at present, it is a rarity for our family to visit a fast food restaurant.
Amy’s products are now available at your local Walmart store! If you’ve tried them, I’d love to hear what you think…and if you haven’t, now is the perfect time to make the organic switch!