A North Bay food company that has built an empire around its healthy, frozen, grocery store concepts is now expanding in a major way in the South Bay. Amy’s Kitchen opened a new, 65,000-square-foot production center in San Jose on Las Plumas Avenue. “Right now we have 186 employees and we plan to hire another 120,” plant manager Natalia Hunter told the Mercury News. People interested in a position can visit an upcoming job fair.
The main production item at the plant is Amy’s popular frozen, organic pizzas, but the company says it is hiring more workers so it can also produce its variety of frozen enchiladas. The company has had surging sales thanks to restaurant closures and lockdowns associated with COVID-19. “During the pandemic, demand for our pizzas, burritos, and other foods went up 100%. We really didn’t have the capacity to meet the demand,” Amy’s Kitchen co-founder Andy Berliner told Mercury News.
The Petaluma-based company makes over 230 million meals annually that are eaten by an estimated 14 million customers. It’s building a new production center in New York right now and also has facilities in Oregon, Idaho, and Santa Rosa. Amy’s apparently needed even more of a presence here in the West to keep up with soaring demand. “We looked all over California for a new production center, in Southern California, the Central Valley, and we picked this location,” Berliner told Mercury News.
Amy's Kitchen, named for the daughter of founders Rachel and Andy Berliner, began as a small operation making vegetarian pot pies out of the Berliners' kitchen in Petaluma — a business inspired when, during Rachel's pregnancy, they couldn't find any pre-made or frozen meals at their local natural grocery store that were vegetarian. The company has seen continued success over the last two decades, expanding with vegan and gluten-free products, and they now have a subsidiary restaurant business called Amy's Drive-Thru with locations in Rohnert Park, Corte Madera, and at San Francisco International Airport. The company put the Rohnert Park location on the market in a sale-and-leaseback deal last year with the intention of funding more locations, and ultimately a national expansion.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is happy to see more jobs beyond the tech industry being created in his city. “Expansions of wonderful companies like Amy’s Kitchen are very important. The economy isn’t just Google and Apple, although we love those jobs. We need everyone to have access to jobs, including entry-level jobs. Food manufacturing is often overlooked, but it is increasingly an important part of our economy,” Liccardo told Mercury News.
Workers are still getting used to the new operations inside the San Jose production center, but they are satisfied so far and excited for the potential.
“We are very happy. We have been learning to walk and soon we are going to run,” Andy Berliner told the Mercury News.
Anyone interested in working for Amy’s Kitchen can visit their upcoming job fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the facility 1885 Las Plumas Avenue.