In a year full of disruptions, the latest Prophet Brand Relevance Index® (BRI) reflects the many ways U.S. consumers changed their relationship with brands. Amy’s Kitchen is a stand-out example of the power of brand relevance: Last year it became so beloved on a national scale, that many consumers consider it to be more indispensable than larger names including Nintendo, Trader Joe’s and Tesla.

“When people craved healthy choices, honesty and companies that stood for something more, Amy’s soared, acing many components of our Index, allowing it to not only make our list for the first time but also land the #21 spot,” says Scott Davis, Prophet’s chief growth officer.

Prophet’s research measures how well brands perform on four key drivers of brand relevance. First, the brand must be customer-obsessed, demonstrating empathy and offering compelling solutions. Next, it must be ruthlessly pragmatic, showing up for consumers when and where it’s needed. Third, it is required to demonstrate that it is pervasively innovative, finding creative solutions to adapt to this disrupted environment. And finally, it needs to be distinctively inspired, with a brand purpose that connects to consumers in ways that are both current and meaningful.

Amy’s Kitchen didn’t develop this relevance by accident. Here’s how it keeps growing its hungry customer base.

Making People Happy

A good meal makes most people smile, and amid pandemic fears, it makes sense that Amy’s wholesome meals would score well. But its high marks on our “Makes me happy” attribute reflects far beyond its fantastic General Tso’s Bowl.

Amy’s is a feel-good brand, and it emphasizes its wholesome roots in many ways. The Petaluma, California-based company understands that customers intensely value where their food comes from, both in terms of organic sourcing of ingredients and the companies that put it all together. “We are still family-owned and have always been committed to quality organic and vegetarian ingredients,” says Andy Berliner, Amy’s Founder and CEO. “Because we are independent, we can put the needs of our consumers first, and focus on making a positive impact, without cutting corners along the way.”

But there’s a core yumminess factor too. In a year where comfort food meant so much more, Amy’s entrees – soups, burritos and that ever-popular Chili Mac –soothed people. Treating yourself to a quick and healthy single-serve meal became an important form of self-care.

Quality Customers Count on

One of Amy’s best scores came in “Lives up to its promises,” where it ranks within the Top 10.

Amy’s team isn’t surprised by that. It carefully cultivates consumer trust in its chief promise – to use high-quality organic ingredients that are responsibly sourced, and carefully prepared and cooked for best taste. Its consumers, who are environmentally aware, health-conscious, savvy label-readers reward the brand with loyalty and repeat purchases. And last year, Amy’s won over many new fans, as well, many of whom got a taste, enjoyed it so much, they continued to return for more.

The “promises” attribute falls under our umbrella of ruthless pragmatism. However, Amy’s also outperforms on two other attributes here: “Makes my life easier” and “Delivers a consistent experience.” While these have been true of the brand since its 1987 launch, it took on new importance over the last year. Stressed-out parents desperately needed all the convenience they could find. And during a time when nothing seemed reliable, a frozen pizza that consistently satisfied the whole family meant even more.

Cooking up New Ideas

Pervasive innovation is another brand relevance driver, and Amy’s excels here too.

Amy’s relies on constant experimentation and its new offers impact the way customers see the brand. Gluten-free, vegan and dairy-free options all reflect changing dietary preferences. And while it’s long been vegetarian, Amy’s food offerings took on new resonance as consumers sought out more plant-based options.

The pandemic taught the company a lot about its innovative muscle. As with many brands, supply chain issues became a problem, making it difficult to get products into freezer cases. And since Amy’s assembles many meals by hand rather than automation, social-distancing practices required an overhaul of production processes to find safe ways to stretch pizza dough and roll burritos in its kitchens.

Stand for Something Bigger

Finally, where Amy’s shines brightest is in its purpose, an attribute we measure as a brand’s ability to distinctively inspire. When ranked by “Has a set of beliefs and values that align with my own,” it earned the #6 spot, outscoring companies like Patagonia and LEGO.

Amy’s purpose, “to make it easy and enjoyable for everyone to eat well,” rings true to its customers and functions as the company’s North Star. “It is the lens we use for all our business decisions,” says Berliner.

Amy’s demonstrates that commitment through improving accessibility and equitability of organic agriculture, and by making meals that cater to a variety of dietary needs and restrictions, like gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan. The company is also committed to decreasing food waste and improving operations to ultimately “heal the planet” through its business.

Consumers will soon recognize those values expressed even more explicitly. Amy’s just achieved coveted B Corp status, awarded only to companies following the highest social and environmental performance standards. The B Corp seal signifies to consumers that Amy’s is a company not just focused on the bottom line but using its business as a force for good.

Final Thoughts

“It’s apparent that consumers are gravitating towards authentic, purpose-led brands more than ever,” says Davis. “As an early adapter, Amy’s Kitchen is truly built around a purpose that has defined its success for decades. Standing for something it believes in and staying true to its roots undoubtedly helped land it in this year’s Brand Relevance Index®. As Amy’s grows its loyal customer base, expect to see new and exciting things from this increasingly relevant brand.”

Get in touch today to learn more about how to build brand relevance to drive growth.