Convenience or health — pick one. For years, this was the choice consumers faced when shopping the frozen food display. In the past decade, technology has improved the first option. But health has largely remained an island.
That's no longer the case, as Amy's Kitchen has been able to address health concerns while offering the ease of preparation associated with frozen foods. Manufacturing a wide array of vegetarian meals, bowls and ethnic offerings — and all with an eye on healthful innovation — this California-based company is increasingly proving that it's possible to cover all the bases.
Founded 20 years ago, Amy's was the first manufacturer to offer organic, all-natural frozen food. Over time, founders Andy and Rachel Berliner stuck to their guns, and the company's growth largely mirrored that of the organics movement: 10% to 15% a year, sometimes more.
“Each year has seen strong growth, and when the industry exploded a couple years ago, we were in a good position to take advantage of the increased demand,” said Steve Warnert, director of sales and marketing.
Now Amy's Kitchen serves up close to 100 different products, from spinach pizza to Indian Mattar Paneer. In addition to being vegetarian, many of Amy's dishes accommodate special-needs diets, including dairy-, gluten-, soy- and lactose-free offerings. In a food culture that's seeing ingredient intolerance across the board, this makes for good business and a positive health image.
“Special diets are a big focus for us,” said Warnert. “We listen to our consumers and are in a position to respond with products that meet their unique needs.”
Amy's Kitchen has grown into mainstream popularity, sitting cool and comfortable in the frozen section of many national supermarket chains. This proves a commitment to innovation in a category that demands it.
“It's ultimately going to come down to technological innovations that enhance taste and also focus on premium ingredients,” said David Morris, senior analyst with Mintel, a Chicago-based research firm. “That's what's going to drive the market forward.”