Two weeks ago, I traveled to Berlin to attend the largest produce convention in the world! Yes, believe it or not, in the middle of winter, produce growers, distributors, seed companies, and machine manufacturers from around the world gather in Berlin for Fruit Logistica.

This was my fifth time attending, and each time I get different insights.

First, let me explain the scope and scale of the show. Messe Berlin is the convention facility, and it consists of 18 contiguous buildings and halls; some are multi-level. There are exhibitors from countries on every continent (except Antarctica). The halls are organized by country, which means each hall has its own personality.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's On Karen's Plate - Fruit Logistica

For example, the hall that featured growers from Spain was decorated with Spanish-themed architecture facades.  In addition to sampling their produce, I enjoyed espresso, slices of a Spanish version of prosciutto or Jamon Serrano, and Manchego cheese, all served by the exhibitors. In the French hall, potatoes (pommes de terre) were aplenty and oftentimes served with champagne!

One of my favorite global companies, Univeg, took up almost an entire hall. Chefs there created and offered samples of “sushi” made with fresh produce!

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's On Karen's Plate - Fruit Logistica

If you’ve ever attended a produce convention or food show in the U.S., you can immediately see the contrast in the way other countries do business. Here, it always feels like rush-rush-rush. Our shows are only one or two days long, and buyers complain that there is never enough time to see the entire show and have quality discussions with the companies that are exhibiting.

This is in contrast to this Euro-centric, relationship-oriented show. Usually, more than 50 percent of a booth space at Fruit Logistica is filled with tables and chairs. When you begin to engage in conversation, the first thing your host will say is, “Would you like to sit down and have some coffee?” From my perspective, it is quite refreshing.

One of the highlights of the show each year is the Innovation Awards. Ten products are nominated by a panel of judges. Then, all attendees are encouraged to stop by the Innovation Award Hall to vote. So it is a “People’s Choice” award of sorts.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's On Karen's Plate - Fruit Logistica
Photo credit: Fruit Logistica

When I returned to the U.S., I learned that the BBQ Grill-Mix convenience tray won. My personal favorite was the Vegetable Crumbs. Think bread crumbs, but made with vegetables. I love their vibrant colors and the company’s use of processing byproducts. You can see all the products that were in contention this year here.

As I think back on my experience walking the show this year, my big takeaways were:

Something else I realized during my three days at Fruit Logistica is that the world is getting smaller. Even though our California citrus growers have been devastated by a freeze this year, dozens of other countries around the world (Spain, Morocco, Israel, Egypt, Australia, China, etc.) are standing by with supplies of delicious and high quality products to fill our shelves, if needed.

So, don’t be surprised if that mandarin orange you purchase next week at your local grocery store is from a family farm more than 5,000 miles away!

From the world traveler,

Karen

Our produce industry likes to have a little fun.  In the spirit surrounding the Super Bowl, I found out about a bet that was made in a YouTube video between the Washington State Potato Commission and the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee.  Washington challenged Colorado to a football wager: the losing side was to donate 500 pounds of fresh potatoes to the winning city’s food banks for every point scored, and the losing executive director would travel to the winning team’s city to promote its potatoes! In the end, food banks in both Seattle and Denver received 25,500 pounds of potatoes, as Colorado lost the bet and Washington matched the donation in good faith. (Read full story here.)

The bet surely got the produce industry buzzing about potatoes.  What a way to, pardon the pun, kick off Potato Lover’s Month!

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Potato Lover's Month

And now I see even more coverage of Potato Lover’s Month online. The Idaho Potato Commission has a network of bloggers who talk about the spuds year round, but more so during February. My blogging friends Erika Kerekes hosted a party this weekend for fellow Southern California food bloggers. The “Potato Palooza” was sponsored by the Idaho commission, as reported by Dorothy Reinhold. I wish I had been in town for that potato party!

Our company has had a role in the potato business, introducing “new varieties” like the first yellow-fleshed potato, the Yellow Finnish, in 1982, and the first baby red potatoes in 1983! Those tiny potatoes were also the first specialty potatoes to be packaged for consumers.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Organic Amarosa Fingerling Potatoes

We have so many new varieties of specialty potatoes that it’s hard to pick a favorite. I love to roast the gorgeous, red Amarosa and Purple Fiesta Organic Fingerling Potatoes. They’re just so beautiful and delicious. But when it comes to mashed potatoes, nothing tops Organic Klamath Pearl Potatoes.

So, I hope you’ll make February YOUR Potato Lover’s Month and try at least one new variety.

Bon appétit,

Karen

You’ve probably all heard about the big news. CVS/pharmacy made an amazing announcement that it will stop selling cigarettes and all other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 stores nationwide by October of this year, making it the first national pharmacy chain to do so.

“Ending the sale of cigarettes and tobacco products at CVS/pharmacy is simply the right thing to do for the good of our customers and our company. The sale of tobacco products is inconsistent with our purpose—helping people on their path to better health…By removing tobacco products from our retail shelves, we will better serve our patients, clients and health care providers while positioning CVS Caremark for future growth as a health care company. Cigarettes and tobacco products have no place in a setting where health care is delivered. This is the right thing to do.”

The first thing I said when I heard the news was, “Well done, CVS!” I commend the company on its decision to support its mission of “helping people on their path to better health,” even though it will lose at least $2 billion in annual revenue from tobacco and tobacco-related purchases.

Soon after that announcement, some people pointed out that CVS is just putting a smart PR spin on its need to cut tobacco sales losses. While that may be true, it doesn’t make the company’s decision any less impactful. Or as President Obama put it: CVS is setting “a powerful example” and making “a choice that will have a profoundly positive impact on the health of our country.”

What really inspires me is CVS’ commitment to its mission.

Standing by your mission is something I understand well. After all, here at Frieda’s, our mission is “Changing the way America eats fruits and vegetables,” and we’ve committed to this crusade for over 50 years.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Changing the way America eats fruits and vegetables

By introducing and encouraging consumers to try new produce items, we hope to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption to help them stay on the course of a healthier lifestyle.

Everything we do aims to educate our consumers and our clients alike. Our sales team is consistently out there introducing new items to the marketplace. Our website, our social media channels, and even this blog, have helped start a conversation with consumers about fresh produce.

The Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert mentioned a very interesting statistic at the Fresh Produce and Floral Council luncheon a few days ago: One in 10 Americans say that their diet is “as healthy as it could be.”

Looking at that another way, nine in 10 Americans know their diets aren’t. That is a lot of Americans not eating right. And that means there’s still a lot more work for Frieda’s to do!

What about you? What’s your company’s mission—or even your personal one? What are you doing to show your commitment to your mission?

If you don’t have a goal for improving your health, how about taking just a few minutes out of your busy schedule to think of one and write it down. Once you’ve planted the seed in your brain, it will be a lot easier to make your mission your reality, just like we do here at Frieda’s.

Karen

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Where Women Create Business

Our President and CEO Karen Caplan is featured in the Winter 2014 issue of Where Women Create BUSINESS.

“Karen Caplan takes pride in continuing the family business that her mother [Frieda Caplan] built from the ground up and carrying on the company’s involvement within their community.”

Well deserved, Karen!