Everyone, this is Carlos. And I love him.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Love Your Produce Manager Day - Carlos and I

Carlos works in the produce department of my local Ralphs grocery store. He’s the guy I go to when I can’t find something. I love his smiling face and we always say hello when he is there. He works on Sundays, when I usually shop, so I see him almost every week.

I wonder if non-produce people get to know the produce personnel at their regular grocery stores? I hope so. It comes in so handy to have a personal relationship with the produce guy or gal.

Do you know why I love Carlos?

Just this weekend, I went into my store and was looking for a head of white cauliflower. I couldn’t find it anywhere. All they had was green cauliflower, so I picked up a green head and put it into my basket. As I was leaving the department, I mentioned to Carlos that they were out of regular white cauliflower.

Carlos insisted that I wait a moment while he went to the back to look. Sure enough, they were out of the conventional cauliflower, but they did have them in organic. He offered one to me at the same price as regular cauliflower. As in many produce departments, the organic items are separate, and I didn’t even think to look there. Problem solved!

I mention this story because there is a national holiday this week that honors produce managers! It’s called “Love Your Produce Manager® Day” and it is Thursday, April 2.

Now, in full disclosure, our company conceived of this national holiday to acknowledge produce managers, the unsung heroes in produce departments. This is the fourth year it has been officially celebrated and listed in Chase’s Calendar of Events.

As with any national holiday, you can post about it on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter! Give a shout-out to your favorite produce manager or post a photo like mine, then use with the hashtag #LYPM between now and April 3. You might just win a $25 gift card for you AND your favorite produce manager!

I don’t think it’s just me who thinks the produce manager is important. Check out what Meryl Streep has to say:

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's On Karen's Plate? - Love Your Produce Manager - Meryl Streep

Get out there and get to know your produce manager!

Karen

“There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women”—Madeleine Albright, First female U.S. Secretary of State

Earlier this week, I attended the March meeting of the Food Industries Sales Managers’ Club of Los Angeles. Since 1993, the March meeting of this group has highlighted women in the food industry. During the luncheon, I learned that this event started out many decades ago as an acknowledgment of National Secretary’s Day, but as more and more women joined the ranks of sales executives, the focus changed. Plus, after all, March is Women’s History Month, so it is perfectly timed to give recognition to women in the grocery business.

Two female executives were inducted into the Women in Industry Honor Roll at the luncheon.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Mimi Song

Mimi Song immigrated to the U.S. with her family in 1977 from South Korea. Her family of five was allowed to bring a total of $5,000 with them. Mimi told the story of her family and her first job as a cashier at a Korean grocery store in South Central Los Angeles. This beautiful and very funny woman founded Superior Grocers in 1981 with a single former Smith’s Food King store in a less than prime location. In 30 years, she has grown the company into close to $1 billion in sales and more than 40 stores. Yes, I said One Billion Dollars in sales!

Almost all of Mimi’s stores are in markets that serve the Hispanic community. Mimi is actually a friend of mine, and she told me that, as an immigrant, she feels a special allegiance and responsibility to other immigrants. During the luncheon, she recounted for us that during the Rodney King riots in 1991, her stores were the only retail outlets that were not looted or robbed. She attributed that to her deep commitment to the communities in which she operates.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Kim Sentovich

Kim Sentovich is the Senior Vice President of the Pacific Division of Walmart Stores, covering all stores in California, Oregon, and Washington. It’s a bit mind-boggling, but that means she has almost 100,000 employees who “report” to her (not directly of course).

Kim started her career at Home Depot, and seven years ago was recruited by Walmart. During her remarks, she shared many words of wisdom, but my favorite was her comment on work-life balance. She equated each day to a pie. She said, that each day when she gets up, she decides how to divide her pie of 24 hours of time. Sometimes, her kids get a bigger piece, or her husband does. And of course, some days, work gets a large portion of the pie. She said the key to her success in providing work-life balance is that she looks at it day by day.

Her final comment was about her personal commitment to giving back, especially to causes that support women. When Kim was introduced, the list of organizations she is actively involved in was long, and most of them revolved around supporting and mentoring other women. And that’s when she shared that Madeleine Albright quote.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Madeleine Albright quote

What a great reminder for all of us, both women and men. As we grow older and move further along in our careers, we should make time to help those who follow us and look up to us, so they benefit from our experiences.

At the end of the luncheon, all past honorees were invited to introduce themselves. There were 16 of us in attendance. It was hard to believe that my mother Frieda, my sister Jackie, and I were honored back in 1996. Look at the company of amazing women we are in now!

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - FISMC Women

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Frieda and Karen

Karen

P.S. Thank you Bob Reeves, The Shelby Report, for these photos.

A call to arms to salute the unsung heroes of the healthy eating revolution

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Love Your Produce Manager Day 2014LOS ALAMITOS, CA (March 2015) — Produce managers play an important part in changing the way America shops—and eats. They are the unsung heroes of the healthy eating revolution, quietly playing a key role in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption just by helping us take home the freshest produce. After all, according to a recent survey by Packaged Facts, three out of four shoppers choose where they shop based on the produce department.

As featured in Chase’s Calendar of Events since 2012, Love Your Produce Manager® Day aims to honor exemplary customer service in U.S. supermarket produce departments.

To encourage industry participation in raising awareness of this holiday, a donation will be made to United Fresh’s “Let’s Move Salad Bars to Schools” program by Frieda’s Specialty Produce on behalf of produce companies, industry organizations, grocery retailers, and growers who use the #LYPM hashtag in a Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram post, or mention Love Your Produce Manager® Day on their websites. Love Your Produce Manager® Day messages must be posted by 11:59 p.m. on April 3 to be counted.

Additionally, Frieda’s is hosting a public social media giveaway to encourage shoppers to show their appreciation for their Produce Managers from Wednesday, March 25, through Thursday, April 2. For a chance to win a prize for themselves and their Produce Manager, shoppers can post a shout-out to their favorite Produce Manager on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with hashtag #LYPM. Three sets of winners will be announced on April 3.

Related link: 5 Reasons to Love Your Produce Manager

About Frieda’s

With over 50 years of fresh produce innovation, Frieda’s Specialty Produce continues to change the way America eats fruits and vegetables. Founded in 1962 by Frieda Caplan, Frieda’s was the first wholesale produce company in the U.S. to be founded, owned, and operated by a woman, and is still a family- and women-owned business today. Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 specialty items to U.S. produce departments, including Kiwifruit, Spaghetti Squash, Habanero Peppers, Sunchokes®, Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes, Sangria and Fiore Viola Artichokes, and many more. Frieda’s featured program is “Eat One Fruit a Day That Scares You,” which encourages everyone to #FearNoFruit. Connect with Frieda’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and at Friedas.com.

Popular online health section asks readers to try 10 exotic fruits

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Janet Helm - US News & World Report

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (March 2015) – Fruit intake remains low in the U.S., according to a recent report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The results inspired registered dietitian, nutritionist, and author Janet Helm, MS, RDN, to issue a challenge to America: “Get over your fear of fruit.”

Helm recently wrote an “Eat + Run” health blog for U.S. News & World Report. In “Get Over Your Fear of Fruit With These 10 Exotic Choices,” she examines the reasons people shy away from actually eating fruits, while seemingly obsessed with cold-pressed juices and smoothies.

Inspired by the Frieda’s Specialty Produce campaign, “Eat One Fruit A Day That Scares You,” Helm suggests trying new, exotic fruits, especially with children. She points to a study that proposes hands-on activities with fruits during playtime to encourage kids to try new things during meals.

“Maybe we all need some new inspiration to eat more fruit,” writes Helm.

The U.S. News & World Report post is the result of an effort by the New York Produce Show to solicit coverage of the produce industry in the mainstream press.

About Frieda’s

With over 50 years of fresh produce innovation, Frieda’s Specialty Produce continues to change the way America eats fruits and vegetables. Founded in 1962 by Frieda Caplan, Frieda’s was the first wholesale produce company in the U.S. to be founded, owned, and operated by a woman, and is still a family- and women-owned business today. Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 specialty items to U.S. produce departments, including Kiwifruit, Spaghetti Squash, Habanero Peppers, Sunchokes®, Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes, Sangria and Fiore Viola Artichokes, and many more. Frieda’s featured program is “Eat One Fruit a Day That Scares You,” which encourages everyone to #FearNoFruit. Connect with Frieda’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and at Friedas.com.

We all have many types of friends.

First, we have “friends,” who are really acquaintances. But we call them friends, as it may seem a bit awkward or cold to label someone an acquaintance, plus they might be a bit more than that.

Then we have “true friends.” People whom we know well. We may know their families or we may hang out in a circle of friends together, such as a GNO (Girls’ Night Out) group or a running club. We spend enough time with them that we know a fair amount about them and do activities together.

And then we have our “really great” friends. These are people who would do virtually anything for us, and we would reciprocate for them. Some of us are lucky enough to have one or two really great friends at any one time. I have found that my closest great friends have changed over the years.

friends

When I had my first daughter, Alex, I met Jill in my Lamaze class. We were really great friends, and inseparable for years, then she moved away. We have remained friends, but are not as close. When my girls went to elementary school and I was involved with their school classes, my closest friends had kids who were similar ages and did similar activities. And we socialized regularly.

So, I have been thinking lately about what actually makes a really great friend.

I don’t think spending a lot of time with someone necessarily makes them a great friend. Or the fact that they remember your birthday each year or attend a family life-cycle event.

I believe a great friend responds to what is important to you. They know you. They know if you need a hug, or a glass of wine. If you need to spend time talking, or time alone. If you need your butt kicked at kickboxing, or you need a quiet walk in the neighborhood. Or if a card or a bouquet of flowers (for no reason) is just the right thing.

I am fortunate to have a few great friends (some of whom are also my relatives), who know me and take great care of me. And for that I am eternally grateful.

I’m sure you have at least one great friend on whom you count and love. Why not forward this blog to them so they know how much you appreciate them?

In friendship!

Karen

About this time each year, Fortune Magazine publishes its list of Top 100 Best Companies to Work For. Many of our supermarket clients are on this list: Wegmans (NY), Whole Foods, Publix (Southeast), and Nugget Markets (Northern California).

A supermarket industry friend of mine, Kevin Coupe, who pens a daily blog wrote an insightful comment about this list:

I always try to keep lists like this one in perspective. The companies that made it are to be congratulated, but they also are the ones that invested time and energy in making the applications. Also…does the fact that Wegmans and The Container Store have dropped down the list from number one at various times really mean that they’ve lost a step? Not really…I think it actually means that Fortune needs to keep rotating the leaders so that there’s some suspense.

I think the real issue is that with unemployment at a historic low—the national number just dropped again this week—those employers who truly value their employees will be the ones who not only are able to hire good help, but they are also able to retain them. And having reviewed the paperwork and the process involved in applying for the “Best Places to Work For” moniker, it is easy to see that big companies put a lot of work into applying for these awards. Although I’m sure each of them is a wonderful place to work, it is clearly a retention strategy for them and something to brag about when recruiting.

But let’s talk about why people really do stay at a company and what they like most about those companies.

At my company, we had a new employee, Frank, who started earlier this week in our sales department. On Frank’s first day, there happened to be a sales department meeting, so, as we always do, we welcomed him to the department by going around the room and introducing themselves. In addition to their names and how long they’ve been at Frieda’s, everyone was asked to say what they liked most about working at Frieda’s.

Although I was not in the meeting that day, this is what I heard:

The question was why we love working at Frieda’s. Most of us said the people. Everyone is like family. It’s fun coming to work every day because you are seeing your friends every day. And work doesn’t feel like work because, well, we’re happy to be here.

It made me so proud and happy to hear this! And I can’t take all the credit for why most of our team is so happy—it’s actually because of them! But I can say that we have built a culture of freedom of expression, friendship and, well, family.

And fun.

Actually, one of the women from our Marketing Department gave herself a new title: Director of Fun. At first I heard that some employees were kind of skeptical, but I know Oakley very well, and she is loads of fun. She is quirky, creative, fearless, and can laugh at herself.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Director of Fun
Oakley, our Director of Fun, wears many hats–literally and figuratively.

Here are a few photos from some of our Director of Fun’s in-house happenings in the past few months.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Talk Like A Pirate Day - Department of Fun
Talk Like A Pirate Day. Arrgh!
Frieda's Specialty Produce - Halloween 2014 - Department of Fun
Halloween potluck. That’s my sister Jackie the Mouse up in front.

And here’s our holiday “card,” 12 (business) days in the making!

So, you do not have to be named by Fortune Magazine for your company to be a great place to work. You just need to be sincere, empower your employees, and be willing to give up control and laugh at yourself every so often.

And it goes without saying that we are always looking for more great people who share our values and are passionate about produce. In case you know someone who wants to join our team…wink wink.

Have fun out there!

Karen