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Amy takes bigger role at Amy's Kitchen

  • Rachel, Amy and Andy Berliner of Amy's Kitchen at their home in Petaluma, Calif., on March 4, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

With plans for a second manufacturing plant in Santa Rosa and a fast-food restaurant in Rohnert Park, natural food maker Amy's Kitchen shows no signs of slowing down a quarter century after its founding.

The Petaluma-based company remains distinctive: family owned with a vegetarian product line and growing sales that have propelled it into the standings of the nation's largest food processors.

The company's 25th year will be marked by new initiatives in Sonoma County and by the youngest family member taking on a new role as she prepares to one day lead the company.

Twenty-five-year-old Amy Berliner, the company's namesake, spent a year after college in England and helped Amy's launch a small food processing plant there. After learning the challenges of breaking into new markets, she returned last summer and is ready for the next step in her education.

"For the next year, I'm going to be apprenticing with my dad," she said, seated last week with her parents, the company's co-founders, Rachel and Andy Berliner.

Her work will include sitting in on her father's meetings and helping him with his projects.

An only child, Amy Berliner said she isn't sure whether she wants to become a hands-on CEO like her father or hire an executive to advance the company's operations. But the Stanford graduate said she is sure about whether she might ever sell the business, as scores of other natural food company owners have done.

"I've made a commitment to the company that I will keep it family-owned," she said. "I'm super passionate about Amy's and about what we do."

Amy's Kitchen ranks among the nation's top brands of natural and organic convenience foods. Its products include frozen entrees, canned soups, breakfast foods, snacks and desserts.

The company projects sales this year at $380 million and employs nearly 1,900 people, including 1,000 in Sonoma County. It operates plants in Santa Rosa, near Medford, Ore., and in Corby, England.

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