50 Years of Success
Frieda's Inc. celebrates 50 years of changing the way America eats fruits and vegetables. Founded in 1962, the family-owned company is the nation’s premier marketer and distributor of specialty produce, supplying grocery retailers and foodservice distributors with more than 600 varieties of exotics fruits, gourmet vegetables and unique companion items.
Founder Frieda Caplan is an icon in the produce industry, known as the first woman to own a produce company in the United States. She is also one of the first wholesalers to attach her brand to produce items and successfully market specialty fruits and vegetables to American consumers. With the mission of changing the way America eats fruits and vegetables, Frieda’s, Inc. is credited with introducing such table-staples as Kiwifruit, Brown Mushrooms, Spaghetti Squash, Shallots, Donut Peaches and a wide variety of Latin and Asian specialties.
Based in Los Alamitos, Calif., Frieda’s, Inc. is still a woman-owned family business, operated by Frieda’s daughters Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins. Karen is President and CEO, Jackie is Vice President and COO, and Frieda serves as Chairman of the Board. In 2011, the third generation of Frieda’s began with the arrival of Alex Jackson, Karen’s daughter who joined the family business and now serves as Sales Promotions Manager.
Essential to Frieda’s philosophy is providing its customers with comprehensive product information, unparalleled quality and service, and a 100% consumer satisfaction guarantee. Frieda’s understands the importance of educating consumers on how to best prepare and enjoy a new or exotic fruit or vegetable. Hundreds of Frieda’s products are labeled with detailed descriptions, usage and handling tips, and offers for free recipes via e-mail. Many products also feature Frieda’s kitchen-tested recipes printed right on the packaging, and more than 250 recipes are available at Friedas.com.
In 1962, Frieda Caplan established Frieda’s Finest/Produce Specialties, Inc. on the male-dominated Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. At that time, Frieda was one of very few women in the produce industry, and was the first 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, earning her the title, “Queen of Kiwi.” Her influence extends beyond Kiwifruit. 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.
Products like Cherimoyas, Fingerling Potatoes and Jicama may be unfamiliar to the average person, but Karen Caplan grew up eating and selling them. As the first-born daughter of entrepreneur Frieda Caplan, founder of Frieda’s, Inc., Karen began working with produce at the age of 10.
After graduating with a degree in Agricultural Economics and Business Management from the University of California-Davis in 1978, Karen joined Frieda’s Inc. full time. Learning the business from the ground up, Karen has worked in just about every department at the company, from packing boxes to sales and marketing. In 1986, at age 30, Karen was promoted to President and CEO of the company. In 1990, Karen and her sister Jackie Caplan Wiggins purchased the company from their mother. Karen’s vision and leadership propelled Frieda’s, Inc. to the forefront of the produce industry as the nation’s leading marketer and distributor of specialty produce.
Karen plays an influential role in the produce industry, and is a well-respected leader. She was the first female chairperson of the United Fresh Produce Association, a national trade organization representing the industry of fruits and vegetables. Karen also served as the first female president of the Los Angeles-based Fresh Produce and Floral Council and was Director of the Federal Reserve Bank Board of San Francisco, Los Angeles branch. She currently serves as a board member of the International Women’s Forum, The PMA Foundation for Industry Talent, and Advisors of the Chancellor of California State Universities.
Beyond the industry, Karen acts as a role model for women entrepreneurs, as well as small and family-owned businesses.
Jackie Caplan Wiggins, second daughter of Frieda Caplan, founder of Frieda’s, Inc., got her start in produce stuffing envelopes with friends at the age of 10. By the time she turned 15, Jackie was spending her summers working at Frieda’s stall on the L.A. Produce Market. She officially began working for her family’s specialty produce company at the age of 25. Jackie earned a Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Business Administration at San Diego State University.
Beginning in sales, Jackie worked with both supermarket and wholesale market produce buyers. She was soon conducting sales for the majority of Frieda’s key accounts, and in 2004 stepped into the role of Retail Sales Manager. In 1990, Jackie and sister Karen gained ownership of Frieda’s, Inc. Jackie is currently Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Frieda’s.
In 1995, Jackie became a member of the inaugural class of the United Fresh Produce Association’s Produce Industry Leadership Program. The groundbreaking program selected 12 representatives from across the county to bring new leadership into the industry. Jackie has also been a part of the Produce Marketing Association’s Produce Leadership Symposium and the Exposition Committee, and has sat on the board of United’s Educational Foundation.
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