Amy's Kitchen has cut 30 jobs

Amy's Kitchen has cut 30 positions, or 2 percent of its workforce, the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., reported Wednesday.

The layoffs will occur throughout the frozen organic food company's operations, from production lines to administrative positions, and will be split between its headquarters in Santa Rosa and White City, the paper said.

Owner Andy Berliner could not immediately be reached for comment by the Mail Tribune Wednesday. Berliner told the Press-Democrat the company still has 900 full-time employees in Santa Rosa and 600 in Southern Oregon.

Sales have declined as shoppers reduce spending on organic food in favor of cheaper alternatives, Berliner said.

"We're a premium product, and people are trading down. People are buying less organic and making stuff from scratch," Berliner said.

The job losses are the first for Amy's Kitchen since the company temporarily stopped production during its first year in business in 1988, the Press Democrat reported.

The company expanded its operations to Jackson County in October 2006 after a protracted public relations tug-of-war between Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Employment at the 176,000-square-foot plant on 50 acres in Whetstone Industrial Park grew rapidly and last year the company added a canning line.

Amy's Kitchen sales have grown 20 percent annually, but are projected to increase just 4 percent this year, reaching $250 million, the result of a decision to raise prices, according to the Press Democrat.

"We geared up for a bigger year before the recession hit," Berliner told the paper. "We certainly think it's going to be depressed into next year. We are fortunate to be holding our own in the current economic recession."

Amy's Kitchen has been scouting for areas to build an East Coast plant, looking at sites in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee. Berliner said the company originally wanted to have an eastern operation on line by 2011, but those plans have been pushed back at least two years.

The company will move its headquarters to nearby Petaluma, consolidating administrative offices now spread among four sites in Santa Rosa. It will continue to process food in Santa Rosa at two plants, the Press Democrat reported.

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