Califonia Bountiful

Family food company enjoys storybook success

Amy Berliner's parents created a company offering convenient, healthy and tasty frozen meals, with money earned going for her college fund.

Amy Berliner couldn't hold back the tears. Her graduation day had arrived.

As she accepted her diploma from Sonoma Academy in Santa Rosa on a perfect afternoon last summer, her parents, Andy and Rachel Berliner, beamed with pride of a job well done.

The Berliner family has two reasons to be proud--their daughter's graduation and the growth of Amy's Kitchen, the natural foods company bearing her name.

When her parents were awaiting the Amy's birth in 1987, they decided to launch a company offering convenient, healthy and tasty frozen meals, with money earned going for their daughter's college fund.

When Amy was in diapers and learning to walk, Amy's Kitchen was also taking its first cautious steps with one product: a vegetarian pot pie.

Today, Amy is 18 and a college freshman, and the company that she calls her twin sister has continued its surprising ascent to prominence.

"We had no idea that we would turn into a big company," Rachel said.

Amy's Kitchen has two plants in Santa Rosa and one in Oregon, with a combined 1,400 workers making 100 million meals a year. It now has nearly 150 different products, ranging from handmade pizzas to soups from scratch. The company utilizes more than 24 million pounds of California organic produce, fruits and rice each year. Annual sales for Amy's products total $200 million.

With a robust college account, Amy headed to Stanford last autumn.

"When I got my acceptance letter, I was screaming, jumping around and dancing for three hours saying, 'I got into Stanford.' It's very exiting!"

"Just yesterday she was a baby in my arms," Andy Berliner said. "My main goal for Amy is that she is happy in life and fulfilled."

As for the kid who launched a company, Amy Berliner said she needs some time to determine her college major ˜ and possible future role with Amy's Kitchen.

"I'm grateful to my parents but also a little indebted," she said. "I actually think I'm no more indebted to my parents than any other child ˜ they just happened to name a big company after me. In truth, we all owe our parents so, so much."

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