Karen Caplan, author of the new Purple Kiwi Cookbook, is the President of Frieda's® Inc, the Specialty Produce People, which was founded in 1962.
Frieda’s , Inc., is the nation’s leading marketer and distributor of specialty produce. The company supplies grocery retailers, wholesalers and food service distributors with more than 500 different items through its branded product lines: Frieda’s , Cocina de Frieda , Asian Specialties , and Vegetarian Meal Center for meatless meal ideas for the produce department.
Known nationally for introducing exciting new and exotic foods to American produce departments and consumers, the media dubbed Frieda’s ‘The Company that Changes the Way America Eats.’ Since the early ‘60s, Frieda’s is credited with introducing such table-staples as Kiwifruit, Brown Mushrooms, Alfalfa Sprouts, Spaghetti Squash, Jicama, Shallots, Mangos, Donut Peaches and a wide variety of Latin and Asian specialties.
Frieda’s, Inc., is the first wholesale produce company in the U.S. to be founded, owned, and operated by a woman. Still today, Frieda’s, Inc. is a family-owned and operated business. Frieda Caplan is founder and Chairman of the Board. Daughter Karen Caplan is President and CEO, and Jackie Caplan Wiggins is Vice President.
Frieda Caplan founded the company in 1962. The first milestone was to turn fresh mushrooms into a staple when most grocery stores sold only canned mushrooms. Caplan’s marketing abilities became recognized worldwide with her success in the discovery and promotion of the Chinese Gooseberry. She renamed it after New Zealand’s famous fuzzy bird, the Kiwi, and introduced Kiwifruit to domestic produce departments and consumers, helping to create a new global industry. By the late ‘60s, New Zealand Kiwifruit had caught on and Caplan soon persuaded California growers to plant the fruit. Following its impressive success with the Kiwifruit, Frieda’s, Inc., quickly gained a reputation in the produce industry for its ability to supply unusual and exotic, premium-quality produce, allowing the company to greatly expand its product line.
Realizing the importance of educating consumers on the usage of new and unusual produce items led Frieda’s to become one of the first companies to attach its own brand name labels to produce. Consumers soon learned that they could rely on Frieda’s informative packaging, which includes product descriptions, usage, handling and storage tips, country of origin, complete nutritional information, kitchen-tested recipes, and an invitation for free recipe brochures.
Consumer response to Frieda’s offer has been overwhelming. Each week the company receives 300 - 500 letters and e-mail messages, which are answered daily. Recently, Frieda’s jumped again to the forefront of the produce industry by becoming the first to offer product information and recipes via e-mail and through a consumer 800#. Both are listed on all of its packaging materials.
In June 1996, Frieda’s launched (www.friedas.com). The first on-line reference source for specialty fruits, vegetables and complementary items. And in 1999, the company re-launched the website with a new look, updated information, more recipes and exciting new features. It currently gets over 250,000 "hits" each month.
Today the Los Alamitos, California based company maintains an 81,000-square-foot warehouse that distributes produce to retailers, wholesalers and food service distributors in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, the company has a mail-order division, Frieda’s By Mail, that serves consumers and the foodservice industry with special orders and gift baskets.
Having grown to the tenth largest woman-owned and -operated business in Orange County, California with more than 115 employees, Frieda’s operates on the philosophy of 100% customer satisfaction, which was instituted by president Karen Caplan in 1992 to assure quality and superior customer service.
Frieda’s, Inc., is continuously seeking out and discovering new fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and other interesting foods from around the world. Its most recent introductions include: Edamame (soy beans in the pod & shelled), Pango Mangos , Donut Peaches and Princesse La Ratte Potatoes.