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Rachel and Andy Berliner: Founders of Amy's KitchenAre there any plans to put vegan cheese in some of your products? For example the pocket sandwiches, toaster pops, snacks, and pizzas?
Not yet. We've been experimenting with a vegan cheese that melts well, however it's made with ingredients that are not organic. In order for us to put a vegan cheese in our products it has to be natural, organic, and free of GMOs.
Several of your products would be vegan if it weren't for the addition of honey. Do you have any plans to modify those products so that they're entirely vegan?
We're working on it. We have 34 non-dairy products in our line currently; 30 of them are vegan. The four products that are not vegan are the All American Burger, the Non-Dairy Vegetable Pot Pie, the Vegetable Pie in a Pocket Sandwich, and the Veggie Loaf. We should be able to make the Pot Pies vegan, but we're still experimenting.
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Amy's meals are currently served in some elementary schools in California. The challenge for us is the price point. Non-vegan foods are far more inexpensive for schools to buy. Since schools get government funding for their lunch programs they naturally want to buy the more inexpensive meat and dairy items.
In Palo Alto, they've been experimenting with two price points: they have a lower price for the meat and dairy meals, and a higher price for the healthier, more natural, organic meals. This way parents have a choice; if they want to spend more for their kids to get healthier food, they can. So far, this is working nicely.
Are your meals served on airlines? If so, which ones? And what do they serve?
Continental Airlines serves several of our vegan meals. You can get our Bean and Rice Burrito, Black Bean Enchilada, Shepard's Pie, and a vegan version of our Veggie Loaf on a flight. We're still working on getting our products onto other airlines. If you'd like to get Amy's meals when you travel, write to the airline and request that they start serving Amy's products on their flights.
What have been the biggest challenges in running Amy's Kitchen?
In the early years we had a lot to learn. We didn't have many professionals from the industry working with us so we had to learn how to do a lot of things ourselves. But we're past that challenge now. Currently, I'd say our biggest challenge is to keep the company feeling like a family run business even though we're getting bigger and bigger. We now have over 700 employees. Luckily, the people who work for us care about our customers as much as we do. They take pride in their work and make the best products they possibly can.
Another challenge we face is trying to keep the price down while still providing foods that are of high quality: natural, organic, and free of GMOs. We don't advertise as much as other companies do because we believe in putting our money directly into our products.
What would you most like the public to know about you and the company?
We want them to know that we're a family business, that we're trying to provide food that is as natural as possible. We want people to have organic foods available to them. We put a lot of care into the creation of our foods and we really do care about the people we're serving.
More and more, you'll see natural foods companies being bought-out by bigger companies such as Kraft or General Mills. We're trying to stay a private company. Our motivation isn't financialů we're service oriented. We want to make people's lives easier.
What is the most popular vegan product you make?
In sheer numbers, that would be the Bean and Rice Burrito. In financial terms, the Roasted Vegetable Pizza and the Black Bean Enchilada since their price point is higher. Our lentil soup is the most popular vegan soup we produce.
What is the most rewarding aspect of running Amy's Kitchen?
The fact that we're pleasing a lot of consumers. Our products appeal to omnivores, vegetarians, and vegans. It's gratifying to know that many people who aren't even vegetarian will choose to eat our meals instead of one that has meat in it.
We're also proud to be able to provide employment for so many great people.
What new products and innovations do we have to look forward to in the coming years at Amy's Kitchen?
More vegan items, definitely. We'll be announcing some new products soon.