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Amy’s Kitchen grew from homey Petaluma company to organic prepared food giant

Rachel and Andy Berliner founded Amy’s Kitchen in Petaluma in 1987 and named the company after their then-newborn daughter. It has grown steadily ever since, becoming a major Sonoma County employer while opening plants in Oregon and Idaho.

The company this week found itself criticized by some of its customers after NBC reported allegations from five workers about injuries they claimed were caused by difficult and stressful workplace conditions. That article was followed Friday by the disclosure of a Jan. 20 complaint to Cal/OSHA that called for regulators to intervene at the Santa Rosa facility.

The complaint was filed by a local chapter of the Teamsters union on behalf of an employee at the plant. Amy’s Kitchen pushed back on claims that the plant conditions were a threat to workers well-being, touting investments in health and safety and a culture centered around caring for “the whole person,” as Andy Berliner described it.

From its humble roots, Amy’s became the leading domestic producer of organic vegetarian packaged foods and is the sixth largest U.S. maker of frozen dishes overall with more than 180 products, according to the North Bay Business Journal. The company shipped 21 million cases of food in 2020. Amy’s opened a production facility in San Jose principally to produce organic frozen pizzas.

The company saw a boom during the pandemic, particularly at the start, when panicked shoppers rushed to stock up on prepared and frozen dishes. The boom was so great that the company hired 753 employees that year, with 188 of the new jobs in Sonoma County.

Andy Berliner stepped away briefly from his CEO role in August 2020. But he returned to the job in May of last year after his replacement, Xavier Unkovic, left the company.

In January, Amy’s Kitchen sold three of its production facilities to a New York real estate investment trust, including the 107,000-square-foot Santa Rosa plant on Northpoint Parkway. That is the facility at the heart of the NBC report as well as the Cal/OSHA claim.

Amy’s then leased the spaces back in a deal that was estimated to raise $144 million for the company.

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or andrew.graham@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @AndrewGraham88

Andrew Graham

Business enterprise and investigations, The Press Democrat 

I dig into businesses, utility companies and nonprofits to learn how their actions, or inactions, impact the lives of North Bay residents. I’m looking to dive deep into public utilities, labor struggles and real estate deals. I try to approach my work with the journalism axioms of giving voice to the voiceless, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable in mind.

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