Organic, vegetable-laden food is nothing new in the Hudson Valley.
In reality, it’s more like a local lifeblood, figuring prominently into the regional landscape at farmers’ markets, in CSA shares, and on restaurant menus. Not just a trend, it’s more or less a lifestyle, operating part and parcel with the farm-to-table movement that extends from the tip of Albany to the bustling heart of Westchester.
Perhaps that’s why Amy’s Kitchen chose to settle here.
In case you’re not familiar with Amy’s (and in that case, have you been grocery shopping recently?), the natural brand is a pioneer in the organic and vegetarian food industry. It began in 1987 when Andy and Rachel Berliner struggled to find clean, take-home meals — ones that actually tasted good — at their natural grocery store.
Soon afterward, a very pregnant Rachel gave birth to a daughter, who the couple named Amy.
While Amy the baby was born in November, Amy’s the brand began in full force in December, when the Berliners made their very first dish, a pot pie. Fast-forward to today, and Amy’s vegetarian pot pies remain one of the brand’s signature comfort food dishes. As the company expanded, it outgrew its original home in Sonoma, California, and soon opened outposts in Idaho and Oregon as well.
Yet even though most of Amy’s products are sold on the east coast, the Berliners never stretched their home base beyond the Midwest. At least, not until this year.
On June 21, the pioneering duo broke ground on their new, fourth production facility in Goshen. Scheduled for completion in 2021, the 389,000-square-foot site will eventually produce the full spectrum of the brand’s products, with a bent toward pizza and snacks. Amy’s makes over 250 items, so the new facility will be a boon for increased production and development. Keeping in line with Amy’s wellness ideals, the site will work towards LEED certification and will operate zero waste to landfill with renewable energy.
For the Berliners, the scouting process for an east coast outpost began a few years ago and originally led them to locations in the southeast.
“We decided we should look on the east coast because most of our products are sold on the east coast,” explains Andy Berliner. Yet when he and Rachel began talking over locations and growing trends with farmers in the southeast, they soon came to the realization that the region has too many bugs for successful organic farming. Switching gears, they met a real estate broker, who suggested they look at the Hudson Valley instead.
“We came here and kind of fell in love,” Andy enthuses, adding that, in addition to the abundant local bounty nearby, the site is also a convenient 10 miles from UNFI, the brand’s distributor in Montgomery, and a close proximity to major metropolises like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York City.
Now that the groundbreaking is official, the Berliners hope to start construction in full force in the spring of 2020 in order to complete it within the year. They’ll employ about 680 individuals, most of whom will be local to the Hudson Valley.
In regard to the announcement, Assemblyman Colin J. Schmitt says, “With over 600 new jobs being created and the construction of a 389,000-square-foot specialty frozen food manufacturing facility, Amy’s Kitchen will stand as one of the cornerstones of economic growth for our entire region. This is exactly the type of company we are proud to welcome to our community and state.”
As Amy’s develops its foothold in the Hudson Valley, it will continue to produce the savory, wholesome meals for which it is known. Staples like bean and cheese burritos and lentil soup will remain at the forefront of production, while flavorful dishes like the brand’s new line of international wraps keep health-conscious eaters excited and open to new ingredients.
When it comes to new product development, the Berliners work hand in hand with chefs in France and New York City to create varied offerings, then test dishes with family and friends to ensure everything is perfect.
“We have a chef who works for us in France, and he comes up with wonderful soups,” Rachel notes.
“We’re working with chefs from New York,” Andy adds. “It’s very varied, very fluid.”
Set to be one of the largest developments in Orange County in the near future, the Amy’s Kitchen facility has generated buzz from the state and local governments, which are working with the company to create an effective site that supports the community and creates jobs. Already, Empire State Development has provided $6.8 million in incentives for the project, while the New York Power Authority is offering a nearly 1.2 megawatt low-cost power allocation under the ReCharge NY program.
“As one of the largest development projects in the Mid-Hudson region in decades, this project will create hundreds of good jobs, boost the manufacturing industry, and generate major economic opportunities for the local community,” says Governor Cuomo.
While Amy’s is the latest development to hit Orange County, it is far from the only project to generate buzz in the Hudson Valley. Elsewhere, Brooklyn crepe brand Crepini sets up shop in East Fishkill’s iPark, while New York pasta maker Sfoglini prepares oodles of noodles in Coxsackie. Nearby in Montgomery, City Winery works to open its wine metropolis, complete with a restaurant, boutique hotel, and performance space, in time for a fall 2019 opening.
Related: A Father-Daughter Brewery Prepares to Pour Homegrown Beer in Chester