Did that headline catch your attention? Well, if you live in Syracuse, New York, or Cincinnati, Ohio, you probably know what I’m referring to.

Bolthouse Farms, One of the two biggest carrot growers in California, decided they wanted to make a difference in their sales of baby carrots. And they have just completed marketing tests in those two geographical markets.

Back in 1972, Frieda’s was one of the first companies to market baby carrots to grocery stores. Mike Yurosek, one of the growers my mom worked with, tried peeling and cutting some of his broken or gnarly carrots into bite-sized pieces. (He was looking for a way to reduce the amount of waste in his carrot crop, since retail buyers had such specific size and appearance standards.) He asked Frieda to help him sell them.

Thirty years ago, they thought we were crazy. After all, who was going to buy small carrots, which, by the way, were more expensive?

As it turns out, that single introduction was probably the turning point for the entire industry. According to an article in Fast Company magazine, the decade after baby carrots caught on, “carrot consumption in the United States doubled.”

However, today, after a decade of steady growth, carrots sales have plateaued. How to jump start consumption again?

After much market research — and hiring a former executive from Coca-Cola to run their company — Bolthouse Farms decided the best way to increase their sales and market share, was to market baby carrots like junk food!

They changed the packaging to look like other popular orange snack foods (Doritos and Cheetos). They came up with a catchy tag line: “Eat ‘em like junk food.” And they invested in heavy consumer advertising.

They wanted to get those bags of baby carrots out of the refrigerator drawers. (I fondly call them the “rotting drawers”… where all the fresh produce we buy goes to die. Out of sight, out of mind, unfortunately.)

So what happened in the market tests in Syracuse and Cincinnati? Well, I hear that sales went up 10 to 12%. I think this is fantastic. Check out the Fast Company story, and learn more about Bolthouse Farms and their products on their website: www.babycarrots.com

Could baby carrots take the place of potato chips as the “junk food” of choice? Maybe not. But it’s a great concept that might help a fresh vegetable find a new role in your life. Find your favorite brand of baby carrots and eat ‘em like junk food!


Earlier this week, I attended the taping of a television show with my daughter, Alex, in the late afternoon. Instead of getting on the freeway and fighting the L.A. traffic at 5 p.m., we decided to grab a bite to eat in Santa Monica.

One of my coworkers, Mary, is an expert on all things foodie, so I texted her for a recommendation. What came back was a flurry of ideas. I decided to go with her first suggestion: FIG Restaurant in Santa Monica.

FIG is located inside the famed Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows at the corner of Wilshire and Ocean Boulevards. It is like an oasis in the middle of a sea of tall buildings and you can see the Pacific Ocean and Santa Monica Pier from the entrance. Chef Ray Garcia says FIG puts ingredients first – “a seasonal bistro with an emphasis on organically grown and locally sourced ingredients.”

So, in we walked at precisely 6 p.m. When I asked for a table for three, the hostess gave me a funny look. She told me that without reservations I could not be seated, even though there were many empty tables. They were completely booked up.

I was taken back a bit. I thought, this must really be the hottest restaurant in Santa Monica after all. So I put on my extra sincere face, put on my selling shoes, and promised her we would finish and be gone before her 7 p.m. reservations arrived. She seated us! (I can be very convincing.)

We quickly scanned the menu and chose our dinner selections. Terri had scallops. Alex had the short rib and pancetta meatloaf, and it was fantastic.

And, since I am trying to eat mostly veggies and legumes at dinner these days, I chose the Pastaless Lasagna. I try to avoid pasta. I’ve discovered that many people are like me and feel bloated when they eat it. With ingredients like Bloomsdale spinach, sweet potatoes and San Marzano tomatoes, I was intrigued.

My coworker Mary goes to the Santa Monica Farmers Market every Wednesday and always brings us back seasonal and good tasting ingredients to inspire us. She has been raving about how much the local chefs love the Bloomsdale spinach and San Marzano tomatoes.

Chef Garcia did not disappoint. The Pastaless Lasagna came out steaming hot in a small shallow gratin pan. Instead of pasta, Chef Garcia layered thin slices of cooked zucchini and cooked sweet potatoes. The fresh San Marzano tomato sauce and Bloomsdale spinach, combined with a small amount of fresh herbs, salt and cheese, was the perfect dinner.

As my family knows, my real weakness is fresh baked bread and butter. Before the meal our server brought us fresh baked French bread. Each mini loaf came wrapped in a special brown bag (pictured below). The butter was actually made of 80% pureed fresh arugula and 20% butter! This spread had a very light “mouth feel” and melted quickly.

This was an almost perfect meal, filled with fresh, seasonal vegetables! We could savor the flavors of each ingredient.

Next time you are Southern California I highly recommend you check out FIG. And if you are there on Wednesday or Saturday morning. . .you can also visit the Santa Monica Farmers Market. It’s a favorite destination of all the top chefs in Southern California!


I read a lot of publications, but one of the most interesting magazines I receive is California Farmer. I have quoted Editor Len Richardson a couple times before. (Read my previous posts here and here.)

I was intrigued by Richardson’s December 2010 story about the Groasis Waterboxx, which was named by Popular Science magazine as one of the top inventions of 2010.

Clearly our biggest challenge in feeding all the people on the planet is having enough water. Without sufficient water supplies, we cannot grow the crops we need. Or, so I thought…

The inventor, Pieter Hoff (from the Netherlands), created the Waterboxx out of personal necessity. He was the largest grower and exporter of lilies in Holland and sold his company in 2004. As he traveled around the world and saw flora and fauna disappearing from erosion and drought, he decided to invest in a solution.

You can find out all the details on the Waterboxx website and YouTube page, but briefly, the Waterboxx is 20 inches in diameter and 10 inches tall. It sits on top of the soil and is filled with water once, and that’s it.

The Waterboxx is about the size of a tire and uses condensation to make plants grow without irrigation. The device gives plants just enough water to survive, which encourages the roots to grow deeper into the water table (which results in fewer weeds).

This amazing invention is now being field tested in Spain, Kenya, France, Chile, Ecuador, Morocco and in California at the Mondavi Winery in Sonoma. Margrit Mondavi, widow of the famed Robert Mondavi, called it “The greatest invention since electricity,” according to the article.

What is especially egalitarian about this invention is that Hoff did not patent it. He wants to produce the boxes locally and wants everyone to make and use them. If you want to reproduce them, just contact him at info AT Groasis dot com. He needs a license fee to continue his research.

Imagine the ability to grow food in the deserts of the world, without an inventor trying to become a millionaire in the process. That is refreshing and exciting to me.

I hope that everyone reading this post will forward it to friends, post it on Facebook, and Tweet about it, so we can spread the word of this great invention.

And now you know!

Now that it’s summer and locally grown produce is plentiful, you have probably noticed more farmers markets around. There is a lovely “feel good” aspect to farmers markets. You can smell the fresh fruits and vegetables and the people selling the produce know “the story” and give out free samples. Farmers markets are also a great family outing. Some markets also sell crafts, fresh flowers, prepared foods and baked goods.

Here in California, farmers markets are regulated. Market managers must ensure that only true farmers’ are selling produce that has been grown on their own property. (Read an article written by well-respected Los Angeles Times writer, David Karp, here.)

In conversations with many of my farmer friends, I learned why they have chosen to participate in farmers markets. Many times, they can market fruit that is too ripe or does not meet certain packing standards to sell to their regular commercial customers. Or they want to support their local community. Some say that the extra money they bring in at the market allows them to make a profit on their farm.

But some of my farmer friends have expressed to me that they wish they didn’t have to sell at farmers markets. After working 5 days a week on the farm, they find it exhausting to work extra hours or over the weekend at a farmers market. Some say that they lose a lot of product at the market. At the end of the day, any unsold produce must be dumped, since it has been out of refrigeration all day. Farmers also tell me that although they enjoy the “fame” they get when consumers like their products and farm identity, and they like interacting with the chefs, it is a lot of work.

Bottom line is that there are pros and cons to buying produce at farmers markets.

The pros are that you get to meet the farmer and learn about where the food is grown. The products are usually ripe and ready to eat. The produce is freshly picked and the ambiance of the market makes you feel good.

To me, the cons are that the produce doesn’t usually last (in my experience) for more than a day or two, because it’s not usually refrigerated, like at a conventional supermarket. The prices may be a bit higher, but it’s usually worth it, especially for the ripe and ready-to-eat fruits.

I do get a little nervous when I see produce out of refrigeration. With all the focus on food safety and food security in our industry, I feel most comfortable buying my produce from a market where I can see that the products (especially the vegetables, like cut lettuce and spinach) have been handled properly and the “cold chain” has been intact.

When I go to the farmers market, I meet a few girlfriends for coffee and then we walk through, picking out produce that is appealing for that night’s dinner. I pick some nice flowers and roasted nuts.

But for me, I feel most comfortable shopping in a regular grocery store or specialty food shop. Everyone has to make their own choice. But I think it is important to know that you have choices.

Just keep eating more fruits and veggies!


Have you noticed at your local supermarket that more and more of the produce is packaged under the market’s private brand? It’s a big trend in our industry, so I thought we should talk about it.

A friend of mine told me that when she saw bagged salads with the Kroger or Safeway brand, she thought the retailer actually grew the lettuce. Well, that’s not usually the case. (Although I suppose it is possible.)

I call this the Trader Joe’s effect. As Trader Joe’s stores have grown in popularity and numbers, so has the impact of their strategy. It’s no secret that TJs offers more than 70 percent of their products under their own private label. They develop a special, proprietary recipe (for their jarred bruschetta, for example), and put a “Trader Joe’s” label on it.

From a strategy point of view, they hope you like their “special recipe” so much that you will come to their store to buy it, and will not buy anyone else’s. And you actually cannot buy it from anyone else, because it is their special recipe. And while you’re in the store, you might try their other private label products. Pretty soon your favorite special ingredients and products can only be bought at one store, so you do all or most of your shopping there.

Well, the same applies with bagged salads. Many retailers now have their own brand of bagged salads, baby carrots, romaine hearts, fresh peaches, bagged apples and sugar snap peas, just to name a few. They hope that you are so happy with the quality that you will continue to come to their store and buy it. You trust their company, you trust their brand, you trust their products.

So, with private labels, there is virtually no comparison. You can’t compare Market A’s bagged salads to Market B’s, because Market A’s is a special mix that you have come to love.

Back in 1978, Loblaws, a supermarket chain in Canada, launched a line of private label products called No Name. The packaging design was an extremely simple yellow and black and it was basically “no frills.” American supermarket operators tried this plain wrap product strategy for a while, but it really didn’t work. Large consumer product goods (CPG) companies like Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and The Campbell Soup Company had huge marketing budgets and were very good at being innovative marketers. In my opinion, they outspent (marketing-wise) the “no frills” brands and regained market share.

Fast forward to 2011, and private label packaged foods, produce, frozen foods, specialty grocery items, and just about everything are bigger than ever. You can even get private label gasoline for your car. (Costco, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Kroger and many others now offer fuel stations as part of their total product mix.)

Whether it’s baby carrots, salad mix, or bagged apples – I know that you want the most nutritious, good tasting food for your family. As someone in the industry, I need to say that not every grower has the same tasting produce. If you like the taste of the baby carrots at one market and not at the other, that is to be expected, as they are probably dealing with different growers. So, pick the one that tastes the best to you. The baby carrots grower probably has a relationship with that retailer…and you’ll almost always have carrots from that same grower. (The produce business is still a relationship business!)

So what does this all mean? Retailers are working harder to earn your business. They realize that you vote with your dollars and you want to be treated fairly when you shop in their stores. And you appreciate it when they go the extra mile to select the best products for you. But bottom line, they want you to like everything they have under their own label and be loyal shoppers.

Next time you see the supermarket brand in produce, think about it!


So, how well do you know the people you work with? Do you know about their families?

Our company, Frieda’s is kind of like a big family. With less than 100 employees, some who have been with us 20 years or more, I have gotten to meet and know the family members of many of my coworkers.

I’m not exactly sure the first time I met Joan, the wife of Steve, one of the produce buyers for Frieda’s. Joan is a fascinating person. She is a professor at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, as well as an accomplished ceramics sculptor.

In 2003, the collection of The Artful Teapots (a gallery of 260 20th century contemporary teapots) was on exhibit at our local Long Beach Museum of Art. Coincidentally, they were focused on women artists, and our company decided to be a small sponsor of the exhibit and hosted a reception. Because one of Joan’s teapots was a part of the exhibit, we asked her to speak on behalf of the family at the reception.

Teapots, you’re thinking? Well here are photos of some of her creations!

Pretty amazing teapots, right?

Ever since that exhibit 8 years ago, I have received many emails from Joan and we see each other occasionally.

So earlier this week, Joan sent me an email with a question:

Karen, this internet article has been passed around regarding onions and mayonnaise and is false according to Snopes.com, but it triggered this inquiry to you. I read your blog with great interest and was wondering if you could give pointers on how to prevent food poisoning during these hot days.

Well first of all, if I knew how to prevent food poisoning, I would feel like a hero. But I can offer this basic advice.

First of all, wash all your produce before cutting it and of course before consuming it. This includes whole melons, as the pebbly skin can harbor all kinds of things, and unpeeled bananas — after all, they are from the jungle.

And probably more importantly, wash your own hands with warm soapy water before prepping the food. According to information I have read, many instances of food poisoning are actually caused by cross-contamination. For example, preparing meats on a cutting board or with your hands, and then touching fresh produce. If you are prepping meats or seafood, be sure to wash the cutting boards, bowls, knives and your own hands with warm soapy water, before making a salad, or cutting up fruits and veggies. And be mindful of your sponges and dish towels, too.

(And for summer grilling, I prefer not to skewer raw meat and veggies together. I do them on separate skewers so there’s no chance of cross-contamination.)

Second, don’t leave food out “all afternoon” when you are dining outdoors. When it’s hot, and there are flies everywhere, I just wouldn’t take a chance. If you are picnicking, bring an insulated chest with you to store foods (with ice). If you are entertaining at home, keep the appropriate food refrigerated until it’s time to serve it. And after everyone eats, put the food back in the refrigerator.

Third, when you get an email from a friend with information that is warning you of a danger, or one that says something like “cinnamon can cure Alzheimer’s” or other information that looks too amazing to be true, do yourself a favor and research it on Snopes.com or TruthOrFiction.com before you decide to forward it on to your entire mailing list. My experience is that 99 out of 100 times, the information is either partially true or not based on fact at all. Save yourself the embarrassment, and do not forward that email.

So, Joan, thank you for your question and keep creating those amazing ceramics!


P.S. The small world continues! I recently found out that Joan’s college roommate, Judy, was the daughter of Sybil Henderson, who created the first recipes for Frieda’s Specialty Produce. It pays to get to know who you work with!

My first memories of tasting fresh apricots was when I was in college at UC Davis. My mom asked me to go visit one of her suppliers, Tufts Ranch, which was located about 20 miles down the road in Winters, California.

Turns out that the owner’s son, Stan Tufts, was a fellow UC Davis “Aggie” (instant connection!). The Tufts family loaded up my car with a few boxes of their special Apricots, and I became instantly popular when I returned to school that afternoon. These Apricots were so tasty – just picked and perfectly ripe.

It seems I’ve never tasted apricots as good as those from Tufts Ranch back in 1976, until I tried an Angelcot®.

I have been counting down the days until these fabulous tasting white apricots will arrive. Usually the Angelcot® season starts June 15, but due to the unusually cool weather this year, the crop was delayed.

Angelcots® are a proprietary (unique and special) variety of apricots that our grower, Marty and his family, have been growing for almost a decade. They grow these beauties in northern California in the same area where cherries and fresh corn grow. They are truly a labor of love.

Their season is short. Angelcots® will only be available for the next two to three weeks. (The season was cut short due to an unexpected rain this past week.) We pack them in 1-pound clamshells, as they are pretty delicate and the clamshell tray protects them.

Angelcots® in the clamshell package. (Comes filled with fruit, but I already ate a few!)

I’ll never forget one of the first times I tasted an Angelcot®. My coworker, Dorian, urged me to sprinkle a bit of Cholula hot sauce on one. I thought that sounded so odd, but when I tasted it — oh my goodness. One of the most memorable fruit moments of my life. Sweet, hot, juicy, savory….all at once.

Try some hot sauce on your fruit!

Because they are grown on a small scale, we only have enough Angelcots® to distribute to a few supermarkets around the country. If you want to know if your store will have them, email us here.

Meanwhile, over the next two months you will find the widest variety of fresh fruit in your local markets, farmers markets, club stores and roadside stands. No matter where you shop, it’s a great time to increase your consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Remember to make half your plate fresh fruits and vegetables


That’s how many miles I drove during my cross-country road trip. Yes, I know it wasn’t a direct route, but I thought it might be the only time I would have the opportunity to drive across the United States. I wanted to make it worth my while and visit as many family, friends and sites as I could.

Dulles airport in Washington, DC
Cleveland, OH
Indianapolis, IN
Chicago, IL 
St. Paul, MN
Omaha, NE
Rapid City, SD  
Jackson Hole, WY 
St. George, UT
Las Vegas, NV
Seal Beach, CA

Alex and I visited many supermarkets while we were making our way across the country – and not just to buy food. Even though my intention was not to make it a business trip, I just couldn’t help myself. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in, and then live and breathe a family business.

And since Alex has started working at Frieda’s full time (this week, in fact), I took the opportunity to teach her a bit about what we do at Frieda’s when we visit our retail clients’ stores.

Each time we pulled into a new city we would find a supermarket to visit. Some of them were retailers who my company does business with, and some were not. I wanted to find out if consumers had the same selection, variety, quality and freshness in their markets across the country, or was it different for us in California.

I told Alex that the first thing we do when we walk into a supermarket is to stop, take a big, wide look, and ask ourselves, “What’s our first impression?”

We did this in every one of the supermarkets we visited. Giant Eagle and Whole Foods in Cleveland, Kroger and Marsh in Indianapolis, Kowalski’s in St. Paul, Hy-Vee in Iowa and Nebraska, Wal-Mart in South Dakota, and Albertson’s in Jackson Hole.

What we found out? That fresh produce is alive and well across the country! I was delighted and surprised at the consistent quality and choices available at every store. The Blue Velvet Apricots that Frieda’s sold to our clients the week before were on display at the Whole Foods Store in Cleveland. And they were fresh, ripe and delicious.

We also found one of our jarred products on display at one of our customers’ stores – displayed out of refrigeration. (That was scary for me.) So, Alex got to experience how we approach a store manager, as a vendor, to tell them that they need to throw out a product.

We snacked on lots of fruits and veggies as we traveled, so I was thrilled to find crisp and fantastic-tasting Braeburn apples at the Wal-Mart in Rapid City, SD. The quality was as good as my local supermarket in Southern California. I was encouraged that American supermarkets, no matter where they are located, have the ability to deliver fresh, good-tasting produce to every corner of the country.

So at the end of our trip, I asked Alex to tell me which was her favorite market. Without hesitation, she said “Kowalski’s Market” in Woodbury, MN! Here are a few photos of the store and I think you can see why she chose it.

Kowalski’s Market
Kowalski’s Market
Kowalski’s Market
Kowalski’s Market

Alex got bored waiting for me at the market in Iowa

Alex described Kowalski’s as “The lovechild of Wegmans and Bristol Farms.” (Wegmans is a well-known retailer in upstate New York, and Bristol Farms is an upscale retailer in So Cal.) The décor of the store was warm and inviting. We sampled our way through the meat and deli departments that morning, and filled up our cart with fresh produce for our road trip.

I hope that as you travel this summer, you will consider visiting supermarkets as a way to experience the locale in a different way. Plus, you can buy healthy travel snacks, rather than the convenience store junk food.

In closing, I’d like to share what I learned from driving more than 4,000 miles with my 21-year-old daughter:

If you ever have the chance to do a long-distance drive with one of your kids – I recommend you jump at the chance! Makes for some great memories.

Back home,