The Center for Growing Talent (CGT) recently honored industry veteran Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan as the winner of the 2019 Women’s Catalyst Award. The award was presented during the sold-out Women’s Fresh Perspectives Breakfast in Anaheim, California, during the Fresh Summit Convention & Expo in October and was presented by last year’s winner, Dawn Gray of Dawn Gray Global Consulting. Gray was the first-ever recipient of the Women’s Catalyst award.
In 1962, Rapoport Caplan founded Frieda’s Specialty Produce becoming the first woman to own and operate a produce company on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. The company introduced more than 200 exotic fruits and vegetables to American consumers since its founding. In addition to transforming the produce landscape in America, Frieda’s Specialty Produce is a third generation, female-owned family business operating in a traditionally male-dominated industry. Rapoport Caplan’s leadership, mentorship and willingness to support the development of others in the industry was the focus of the nominations for this award.
“Frieda Caplan is a very special, one-of-a-kind, inspirational leader as well as mentor to so very many of us who have followed her in the produce and floral industries—both male and female,” said Jan DeLyser, VP of marketing at the California Avocado Commission and moderator for the Women’s Fresh Perspectives Breakfast this year. “I have always felt fortunate that Frieda was kind enough to ‘adopt’ me when I moved to California with The Packer newspaper in the late 70s and that she has stayed with me as a valued mentor every day since. She is one of the most intelligent people I know and continues to have the innate ability to get to the crux of a matter with ease, while providing invaluable perspective.”
The Women’s Catalyst Award recognizes an outstanding individual in the produce and floral industries who cultivate women’s potential by mentoring and fostering a path for leadership, development and participation. Nominations are accepted for any man or woman who has demonstrated the ability to engage and inspire talented women who make a positive impact on the industry. This is often accomplished through effective mentoring, coaching and using one’s influence to lift others and contribute to the development of talent in our industry. CGT says Rapoport Caplan’s influence on the industry is well-known, but this award will also spotlight the influence she has had on individuals in the industry as well.
“Frieda has served as an inspiration and role model to many in the fresh produce industry,” said Produce Marketing Association CEO Cathy Burns. “During my first California member tour after joining PMA, she welcomed me with open arms. I fondly remember a dinner we shared with other female leaders in our industry and the many insights and laughs we had that evening. For me, the opportunity to build not only a relationship, but also a friendship, over the years is something I treasure. Her willingness to mentor others as they sit under her learning tree is one of the many reasons Frieda is being honored by the Center for Growing Talent with this award. A much-deserved congratulations to you, my friend.”
Additional individual awards were presented at Fresh Summit, including the Floral Marketer of the Year and the Jay Pack Cultivating our Future Award. Rich Dachman, CEO at Brighter Bites and former longtime VP of produce at Sysco, received the 2019 Robert L. Carey Leadership Award. Vic Smith, CEO of JV Smith Cos., received the 2019 Bryan E. Silbermann Collaboration Award.