Interview with Amy’s Kitchen entrepreneur Rachel Berliner
When Rachel Berliner was pregnant she was frustrated by the lack of healthy and tasty convenience food – so she decided to make her own. Today she runs an international business with her family.
What first inspired you and your husband to launch your own food business?
Hunger! I was pregnant with Amy and I couldn’t cook, but I was craving delicious food made with the same organic ingredients we used at home.
My husband Andy went to the store to find something easy to ‘heat and eat’, but there just wasn’t anything that was good. We decided to try to make delicious convenience that is special – food made with premium ingredients and much care.
Did you have any relevant skills or experience, or did you learn everything as you went along?
I have an artistic background and a passion for natural and organic food, and Andy has run businesses before. So, I’ve always worked on the creative side of Amy’s Kitchen and Andy has worked more on the business side.
From the beginning, our friends and family have always been involved, too, and lent their strengths and talents.
How did you juggle building up your business with raising Amy?
In the beginning, our office was in our barn and we worked from home. So I could be a stay–at–home mum, able to nurse Amy and work. My mother was also a great help with running the business and helping out with Amy.
As the company grew, Amy was starting school and I was able to give the business more time.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced with your business, and how did you overcome it?
It’s always a challenge to grow and stay true to your original vision. We use a lot of handmade methods in our kitchens – we cook like you do at home. And, even as we’ve grown, we’ve managed to maintain this level of care and attention.
We still cook from scratch and make many of the ingredients we cook with, like our pizza crusts, gluten-free tortillas, tofu, sauces, and even the pasta. It’s really a challenge to attend to all those details. But I think that when something is such an essential part of what you’re doing then everything just works around that vision. It finds a way!
And what’s been your proudest moment?
There have been many wonderful moments over the years. I do love reading letters from Amy’s fans who discover our free-from foods and tell us things like: “Thank you – I thought my life was over” and “I thought I’d never eat my favourite foods again”.
Often they say they were depressed and “You’ve saved my life!” Some of these letters just make me cry. It’s wonderful that we can make food that really has such an impact on peoples’ everyday lives.
Amy’s kitchen is a real family business. Does Amy now work for you too?
Yes, we’ve always been a family business. My brother, mother, and nephew are all active in helping the business. Over the years, we’ve all supported many roles, depending on the company’s needs.
Amy has always been a part of the business – she went to her first trade show when she was just a baby! These days she helps with marketing and sustainability initiatives in the company. She’s mentoring with her dad, too, so that she can help run the business.
What makes your food different?
I think it’s every little thing we do, literally. We take so much care with everything, and we work with people who have the same love for the food.
Through all the steps of Amy’s Kitchen – developing recipes, sourcing ingredients, cooking and baking, developing packaging, responding to consumers – we are always minding all the details and taking care.
People have told us “There’s no way you can run a business that way!” but it works for us. We just wouldn’t want to come to work every day if we weren’t making the very best food we can.
How do you come up with new recipes?
This is where we’re really unconventional and not like most food companies! We’re much more like a big kitchen than a company. At most food companies, they have an R&D team with food scientists and marketing people tracking trends. We have a totally different style.
I read almost all the letters we get from our fans, and we get a lot of special requests for new dishes. That’s how I get many of the ideas for new offerings.
We also re-create the fantastic foods that our friends and family have made for us or that we’ve tasted in our travels. We follow our inspiration and intuition. And then comes the work – finalising the recipe. We do spend a lot of time perfecting our recipes (sometimes years!) until we get them just right.
What’s your vision for Amy’s Kitchen?
To make food with the very best ingredients and home-style cooking methods. We want to help people eat really well, even if they have a special diet or don’t have the time or ability to cook for themselves.
And, as important as all that, the food should be delicious. When we’re creating new recipes at Amy’s, I always champion deliciousness!
Where can people buy your food?
You can find our frozen ready meals in the Free From section in selected Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, The Co-operative, Holland & Barrett, Whole Foods and independent health food shops.
Our organic soups are in selected Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, Morrisons, Whole Foods and independent health food shops. If anyone wants to keep up on new products or special offers, our Facebook page and website are good places to stay in touch.
What advice do you have for other aspiring business mums?
Make sure you’re really doing what you love – because you could be doing it for the rest of your life!
You can find out more about Amy’s Kitchen on their website.