FRIEDA RAPOPORT CAPLAN, PH.D.
“Success came because I never saw obstacles,” says Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan in the 2015 documentary film “Fear No Fruit” about her life as a produce industry trailblazer. Frieda chose not to see any obstacles in 1962 when she became the first woman in the U.S. to own and operate a produce company on the all-male Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market. She saw no roadblocks when she began buying and selling then unusual and new-to-market specialties like brown mushrooms, Sunchokes®, and spaghetti squash. She feared no fruit when she brought the first load of fuzzy brown kiwifruit in from New Zealand. That grit and determination earned Frieda the title “Queen of Kiwifruit” for her successful introduction of kiwifruit to the American market.
The company would go on to inspire new food experiences for chefs and home cooks by introducing more than 200 exotic fruits and vegetables over the years, including dragon fruit, habanero peppers, jicama, and Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes.
In 1979 Frieda was the first woman to receive The Packer’s “Produce Man of the Year” award, which she handed back to the organizer. The award was soon renamed “The Produce Marketer of the Year,” and she received a new plaque with that title. She has received numerous awards and honors for her achievements over the years, including an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from CSU-Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for her achievements as one of the nation’s most successful female entrepreneurs.
Other recognitions include:
- 2015: Frieda’s Hometown of Los Alamitos, California, proclaimed October 15th “Frieda Rapoport Caplan Day” to commemorate Frieda’s hard work and dedication to the produce industry and the city of Los Alamitos.
- 2013: Gold Stevie® Award for Lifetime Achievement for Women in Business.
- 1990: Los Angeles Times “A Dozen Who Shaped the 80s” article published, in which Frieda’s profile appeared alongside Steve Jobs, Michael Eisner, and Jane Fonda.
- 1986: The first recipient of the Harriet Alger Award from Working Woman magazine for being a remarkable entrepreneurial role model for women.
Frieda and her late husband, Al, were founding members of Temple Beth David of Orange County. She has been an active member of the Los Angeles chapter of the International Women’s Forum. She served a six-year term on the University of California’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Agriculture and Natural Resources. Frieda currently serves on the Board of Dramatic Results, a nonprofit agency that solves educational challenges by providing integrated arts programs to students and teachers in over 40 public school campuses in California, Oregon, and Alaska.
Now in her 90s, much loved “Dr. Grandma Mom Frieda” now shares her Los Alamitos, California, home with granddaughter Sophia. She still comes to the office four days a week, occasionally checking in on her daughters and granddaughter Alex Jackson Berkley in the sales department.