The United Fresh Produce Association will honor Frieda Rapoport Caplan with its Lifetime Achievement Award during its 2013 Winter Leadership Meetings in January in Tucson, Ariz. The award recognizes individuals for a lifetime of achievement and for lasting contributions to the fresh produce industry.
In 1962, Frieda Caplan established Frieda’s Finest/Produce Specialties Inc. on the male-dominated Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. At that time, Caplan was one of the first women to own and operate a U.S. produce business. She debuted with a purple sign, which later became the company’s signature color, and her premier product was fresh brown mushrooms—an unusual specialty at that time. She quickly developed a reputation for buying and selling new and unusual produce specialties.
Caplan’s marketing abilities were recognized worldwide after her success in introducing and promoting the Kiwifruit in the United States, earning her the title, “Queen of Kiwi.” Her ability to create consumer demand for unusual foods has helped Caplan and her daughters make success stories out of many more items, including Sugar Snap Peas, Hothouse Cucumbers, Habanero Chiles and Kiwano Melons.
Today, Caplan continues to serve as chairman of the board of Frieda’s Inc, working with her daughters Karen Caplan, president and CEO, and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, VP and COO, to lead the company. Frieda’s recently marked the addition of the third generation to the company, with Frieda’s granddaughter Alex joining the marketing team at the company.
Throughout Caplan’s career she has received countless awards from the industry and larger business community. These accolades include The Packer’s 1979 “Produce Marketer of the Year” award, the Harriet Alger Award from Working Woman magazine, Los Angeles Times recognition as one of the top 12 California business persons in the 1980s (along with Michael Eisner and Jane Fonda), and the 2012 Legacy Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners.
“Frieda Caplan truly is the model for a Lifetime Achievement Award in the produce industry,” said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. “From the very start she epitomized the classic produce entrepreneur, always pushing forward as a progressive marketer, savvy business personality, and as a leader in our industry. And while Frieda has been a longtime role-model for women in produce, she stands out as a role-model for anyone in our industry.”
Based in Los Alamitos, Calif., Frieda’s Inc. is celebrating its 50th year as a premier marketer and distributor of specialty produce, today supplying grocery retailers and foodservice distributors with more than 600 varieties of exotics fruits, gourmet vegetables and unique companion items.
“I am honored and a bit overwhelmed with this award. But I have to say that my greatest success and joy is that I get to work every day alongside my two daughters and one of my grandchildren. Everyone in business should be so lucky,” Caplan said.
The award will be presented by the United Fresh Foundation’s Center for Leadership Excellence at a new Produce Legends Dinner, to be held each year in conjunction with the United Winter Leadership Meetings. This year’s dinner honoring Frieda Caplan will be held Monday, Jan. 28, at the Loews Ventana Canyon Ranch in Tucson. Friends and associates who wish to join in honoring Frieda are invited to participate in the dinner, as well as the foundation’s benefit golf tournament earlier that day. Information on golf and dinner tickets and sponsorship can be obtained at www.unitedfresh.org under the calendar of events.
The United Fresh Lifetime Achievement Award honors individuals who have showcased a career of distinguished service to the fresh produce industry; commitment and leadership in their business, community and the industry overall; significant impact on the growth and success of the industry; and demonstrated achievements that have made a lasting difference for those who will follow in their footsteps. The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Reggie Griffin of The Kroger Co. in 2012, and was awarded posthumously in 2007 to Robert Grimm of Grimmway Farms.
Nominees for this year’s award were solicited from among United Fresh’s hundreds of volunteer leaders and the honoree was selected by the executive committee of the United Fresh board of directors.
In the featured photo at top: Frieda Caplan, second from left, with daughters and granddaughter.