With fermented foods hitting near the top of trending foods the last few years, I think it’s time to talk about kimchi (also written “Kim Chee”).

Many people have a love/hate relationship with kimchi. They love the garlicky, spicy, raw freshness of the pickled cabbage, yet have to apologize to their friends for their, well… garlic breath, which seems to also permeate one’s pores.

If you’ve never tried it, but you keep hearing about it, let me enlighten you. Kimchi is a traditional, fermented, Korean side dish made with vegetables—typically cabbage—and a variety of spices. Ranging from mild to extra hot, it’s often used as a condiment and pairs well with Korean barbecue beef and a variety of other Asian flavor profile foods.

Kimchi - Photo by Craig Nagy
Kimchi (Photo by Craig Nagy/Flickr)

Kimchi has been getting a lot of attention lately thanks to the increased interest in foods with “gut”-friendly probiotics. Similar to yogurt, kimchi naturally contains bacteria that are beneficial to the digestive system. And with the ever-growing popularity of Asian flavors, especially Korean food, kimchi is having its moment.

Fermented vegetables… sounds kind of weird, right? It’s actually an extremely old way of preserving foods. Basically, you liberally salt the vegetable and wait for its natural liquids to seep out. Then you keep it submerged in its own juices for months, or longer. With the addition of garlic, ginger, and red pepper, kimchi really packs a flavorful and a healthy punch. Authentic kimchi often contains a dash of fish sauce, or another fish flavoring, which true kimchi aficionados swear by.

One cool thing about kimchi is that even after it’s jarred up, it’s still fermenting a little. When sold at the grocery store, kimchi jars must be kept refrigerated because they can’t be hermetically sealed. Why not? Because the natural gasses released during continuous fermentation would build up and result in a little kimchi volcano—the jar could explode. In fact, when you buy a jar of kimchi, be sure to open it over the sink, as a little eruption of those friendly fermenting bubbles can happen. (Disclosure: Frieda’s has been selling jarred kimchi since 1978 and every few months we get an email from a consumer who lets us know their kimchi keeps bubbling. We have to tell them that’s normal.)

One question we often get is, “How do I make my own kimchi?” While we can’t give out our own secret recipe, we often share a few recipe suggestions from other sources, including “Basic Napa Cabbage Kimchi” from Chowhound. Actually, my favorite kimchi is one made with cucumber. I once ate an entire jar. Try it—you’ll love it!

As I mentioned, kimchi is the kind of food that people either love or hate. And when they love it, some people become a little fanatical about it. Case in point: a Frieda’s kimchi consumer from upstate New York whom we’ve dubbed “Kimchi John.” He started sending us kimchi fan mail a few years ago. He claims ours is the only brand that has the authentic flavor and taste that he wants, and he continues to send us regular updates from his store and his kitchen, including some of the delicious dishes he has cooked up using kimchi. He even has a dedicated album on our company Facebook page—John T’s Kimchi Korner!

Frieda's Kimchi
Shopper John T. sent us this photo of our Kimchi at his local Tops Market.
John T's Kimchi Devilled Eggs
John T’s Kimchi Devilled Eggs

I’ve been seeing kimchi popping up on restaurant menus all over the country too. This past weekend, daughter Alex and I dined at one of the top vegetarian restaurants in the country, Gjelina in Venice, California. And what was the first thing we saw on the menu? “Sprouted Purple Barley with KimChee and Thyme.” Yum! You can bet that was the first thing we ordered, and it did not disappoint. The crunch of the kimchi was a nice contrast to the chewy, rich flavor of the sprouted barley. And it was not too garlicky.

As our Western palates become more open to trying new tastes, amazingly flavorful foods like kimchi and gochujang (Korean hot sauce) are finally getting the spotlight. The added bonus is that the fermented nature of the kimchi might even be good for our digestive health.

So, eat your kimchi!

Karen

Frieda’s offers top-selling wrappers in redesigned packaging with new egg-free formula

Frieda's Specialty Produce - New Egg Roll & Wonton Wrappers

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (January 2016) – Egg roll and wonton wrappers are a top-selling fixture in many produce department refrigerated cases, and savvy cooks are discovering them as a quick and easy meal solution from party appetizers to creative desserts year-round.

With their new, egg-free formula, Frieda’s Specialty Produce egg roll and wonton wrappers are ready to party with their new attention grabbing, impactful packaging, designed to attract Millennials and food lovers everywhere.

In addition to traditional Asian-style preparations, egg roll wrappers can be used to make lasagna, pastry shells for taco filling or chicken salad, or dessert pastry rolls. Wonton wrappers are perfect for making ravioli and mini pizza bites.

Frieda’s showcases the versatility of these wrappers in their new 30-second instructional video series called “Frieda’s Quick Bites,” available on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/vb40o_SZprY]

Interested retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice distributors can contact Frieda’s for more details on these top-selling refrigerated produce items, and to gain access to Frieda’s extensive product information, high resolution images, and recipe database.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 53-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, Sangria artichokes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins in Orange County, California. Inspire. Taste. Love.

Celebrate Potato Lover’s Month with colorful potato varieties

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Star Spangled SpudsLOS ALAMITOS, CA (January 2016) – Celebrate Potato Lover’s Month with a purple flare. Attract shoppers with colorful, specialty varieties on your potato display. Frieda’s Specialty Produce recommends the following eye-popping potatoes:

Star Spangled Spuds: Grab shoppers’ attention with this mix of Yukon gold, purple, and red potatoes in a 2-pound bag with Frieda’s new bold and brightly colored label.

Purple Peruvian potatoes: Beautiful inside and out, these purple potatoes provide a great color break and attract shoppers. A- and baby sizes are available.

Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes: Add a purple color break to the sea of orange in your sweet potato display. This beautiful purple variety is also a favorite of fitness enthusiasts and foodies. Also available in organic.

A great way to increase impulse sales is to merchandise these specialty potatoes alongside flavorful shallots, Cipolline onions, elephant garlic, and white, red, and gold boiler and pearl onions.

Interested retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice distributors can contact Frieda’s to find out more about these and other trending products, and gain access to Frieda’s extensive product information, high resolution images, and recipe database.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 53-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, Sangria artichokes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins in Orange County, California. Inspire. Taste. Love.

Well, for sure, coconut is a trending flavor. It feels like coconut is everywhere. Rows and rows of packaged coconut water are in your grocery store or at the gym; shredded chunks of fresh coconut can be found in the refrigerated section of the produce department; and coconut cupcakes, coconut milk, and coconut water are definitely everywhere you look.

Although I have purchased Tetra-packed coconut water on occasion, for me there is something not quite right about drinking coconut water from a plastic container.

I want the real deal.

I prefer to drink the coconut water right out of the coconut. At first, I honestly was a little intimidated by those big white coconuts wrapped in plastic. (Full disclosure: We sell young coconuts here at Frieda’s, but they were still intimidating to me!)

Coconut_YoungOpen_Labeled

So, I thought I would share with you the secret to cutting into a young coconut.

First of all, the coconut MUST be refrigerated. If you see young coconuts in your produce department sitting with a bunch of other fruits at room temperature, do not purchase them. They may go sour and they most likely will not taste good. We store them at the coldest temperature in our warehouse and they must be refrigerated in your produce department. When you get them home, they should go right into your refrigerator.

What’s so special about the young coconut is that, in addition to the sweet juice on the inside, the “meat” isn’t fully matured, so it’s still soft and creamy. It’s perfect for smoothies and smoothie bowls.

Since I am not the only person who can’t figure out how to open a young coconut, some of my fellow coworkers produced this 15-second video. Take a look:

[Internet Explorer users may not be able to view the video below. In that case, view it on YouTube here.]

How to open a young coconut. #YoungCoconut #FriedasQuickBite #CoconutWater #HowTo #FriedasProduce

A video posted by Frieda’s Specialty Produce (@friedasproduce) on

If you are looking to shred coconut or chop the meat into chunks, you will need to purchase a brown coconut. The brown-skinned coconuts are more mature and the inside meat is firm, but still slightly moist. Brown coconuts should be available in your produce department, and do not need to be refrigerated. Most likely you will find them near the tropical fruit section.

So, next time you are thinking about a trip to paradise, or you just want to make a tropical meal or drink, go all out and try your hand at a young coconut. You’ll impress everyone!

Enjoy!
Karen

Frieda’s Specialty Produce offers key produce items in line with this year’s health and wellness movements

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Power Bowl

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (January 2016) – From soups to spuds—no matter how you slice the new year’s health trends—all wellness roads lead to the produce aisle. Trend-spotters at Frieda’s Specialty Produce predict the following healthy food movements will send shoppers to the produce department in 2016, looking for specific produce items.

The Return of Potatoes and Good Carbs

“Good carbs,” or complex carbohydrates, are back on the menu. Sweet potatoes are more popular than ever, especially those in vivid hues like Frieda’s Stokes Purple® variety. Potatoes in general are making a comeback, so be sure to stock a variety of specialties like fingerling potatoes and multicolor packs like Frieda’s Star Spangled Spuds. As many retailers are already stocking up for Potato Lover’s Month in February, it’s the perfect time to power up the specialty potato offerings.

Power Bowls with Colorful Vegetables

Meals in a bowl have evolved from breakfast açai and fresh-fruit smoothie bowls to main entrée lunch and dinner fare. “Power bowls” and vegan “Buddha bowls” often include a base of quinoa or brown rice topped with a lean protein, lots of colorful vegetables, and a fruit or two. Popular power bowl ingredients include nutrient-dense citrus and tropical fruits like starfruit and dragon fruit, plus vegetables like fennel, baby beets, watermelon radishes, colored cauliflower, and Romanesco, or even slices of baked sweet potato. Wellness-junkie shoppers will be perusing your produce aisles for something new and colorful to add to their next bowl, so offer them variety.

Soup Up with Roots & Flavor Boosters

Soups are the new smoothie! Comforting and packed full of nutrients, your health-conscious shoppers are adding more home-cooked soups to their menus with a broader range of ingredients than just carrots and celery. On-trend ingredients include colored cauliflower, sweet potatoes, root vegetables like Sunchokes® and celery root, and flavor boosters like ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, and fresh chile peppers.

Interested retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice distributors can contact Frieda’s to find out more about these and other trending products, and gain access to Frieda’s extensive product information, high resolution images, and recipe database.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 53-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, Sangria artichokes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins in Orange County, California. Inspire. Taste. Love.

Frieda’s new crêpes packaging attracts impulse shoppers to help boost retailers’ berry sales

Friedas_FrenchCrepes

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (January 2016) – This February, provide your shoppers with a Valentine’s Day meal solution display featuring value-added produce items like Frieda’s newly branded French Style Crêpes, paired with your fresh berry case.

Frieda’s new packaging design has a fun, young vibe that appeals to home-cooking Millennials without alienating Baby Boomers. With attractive branding, including the phrase “Ooh là là” on the packaging, Frieda’s ready-to-eat crêpes are an easy way for shoppers to add a little romance to their Valentine’s Day menus.

Packed in ready-to-display cases, the crêpes are also available in a self-standing crêpes shipper display of four 12/5oz. cases featuring bright colors and tasty graphics that will catch shoppers’ eyes and draw them right to your Valentine’s Day destination display.

While crêpes are a perfect complement to fresh berry displays, Frieda’s also recommends merchandising them with tropical fruits, such as passion fruit and pomegranate, and specialty citrus, such as mandarins, blood oranges, pink lemons, and Meyer lemons.

Shelf-stable and ready-to-eat, Frieda’s crêpes are the perfect impulse item for your produce department. Ooh là là, indeed!

Contact Frieda’s to find out more about la crêpe magnifique shipper and très bons products.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 53-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, Sangria artichokes, habanero peppers, Sunchokes®, and organic finger limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins in Orange County, California. Inspire. Taste. Love.

Leading food-policy news source features the Frieda Caplan documentary

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (January 2016) – In “How One Woman Changed the Supermarket Produce Section Forever,” recently published on CivilEats.com, journalist Larissa Zimberoff discusses the success story of Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan and the documentary film about her life, “Fear No Fruit.

Civil Eats is a daily news source for critical thought about the American food system and was named the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 Publication of the Year.

Zimberoff was on her United Airlines flight to New York from France when she picked documentary “Fear No Fruit” from in-flight entertainment selection. She was impressed by the story.

“At the time I was working on a story about the future of the supermarket, and it seemed like such a coincidence to find this film. While watching it, I kept thinking what a cool woman Frieda was and that I wanted to share her story,” said Zimberoff.

It’s not just Dr. Caplan’s entrepreneurial spirit and can-do attitude that inspired her. Zimberoff finds the behind-the-scenes look at the produce industry equally intriguing. She connected with the Caplans within hours of having viewed the documentary via Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert, whom she had recently interviewed for another story. (Lempert also appeared in the film.)

“The film was incredibly engaging from start to finish, and it was inspiring to learn about the strong, family-run, and female-led company,” added Zimberoff.

Excerpt from Civil Eats:

“Today, the produce section is the most profitable part of the supermarket; in 2014, sales in fruits and vegetables amounted to approximately $7.34 billion. The extraordinary selection found in the bins today is due, in part, to Caplan, who is credited with introducing the U.S. market to more than 200 fruits and vegetables—everything from fiddleheads to jicama and finger limes.”

“Fear No Fruit” will be available on DVD on January 12 from Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, BestBuy.com, and KinoLorber.com, and as a Netflix DVD rental. Streaming and digital download are also available on iTunes, HuluPlus, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox Video, Vudu, and Vimeo on Demand. Additionally, the film is available for educational and community screenings via Kino Lorber EDU.

Directed by Mark Brian Smith, “Fear No Fruit” chronicles the life of Dr. Caplan, the first woman entrepreneur on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market in the 1960s. While the film focuses on her life and career, it also features interviews with produce business influencers including Rick and Tonya Antle of Tanimura & Antle.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 53-year legacy of inspiring new food experiences for friends, family, and food lovers everywhere. Credited with introducing more than 200 specialty fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets, Frieda’s has helped launch unique items like Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes, Sangria Artichokes, Habanero Peppers, Sunchokes®, and Organic Finger Limes. Founded in 1962 by produce industry icon Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is now owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins in Orange County, California. Inspire. Taste. Love.

When “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” hit theaters last month, guess what hit grocery shelves? Android BB-8 on bags of oranges and Darth Vader on bags of apples. (And R2-D2 on everything from baked chips to canned soup.) Yep, it was timed perfectly. True 21st-century marketing.

But I was surprised to see some of the backlash on the “Star Wars” branding of fruits and vegetables. Many people said Disney had gone too far. There’s even a meme going around with BB-8-branded oranges that says, “Disney needs to calm the [bleep] down.”

OK, it might look a little cheesy to put BB-8 all over that bag of oranges if you don’t understand why. But as a parent, I don’t want this branding of fruits and vegetables to calm down. If the kids want to eat produce, I don’t care how, or what the reason is. Let them have fruit!

Disney Meme - Star Wars Branding
Really? I don’t think so, at least if we’re talking about the branding of fresh fruits and vegetables!

We are so used to seeing branding on other consumer packaged goods. You expect to see “Star Wars” on your mac-and-cheese and cereal boxes. A recent Campbell’s Soup commercial depicts a little boy pestering his mom for R2-D2 soup while they’re in the produce aisle. Exasperated mom asks the produce guy about the soup, and he leads them to the soup aisle.

So, what if that little boy had been pestering his mom for R2-D2 sugar snap peas? Right there in the produce department? That would have been just fine with me.Frieda's Specialty Produce - Darth Maul - Kiwano

I sell produce for a living. Exotic fruits and vegetables to be exact. I sell them to supermarkets and chefs, and I have spent a lot of time the past few years trying to give school-age kids access to more fruits and vegetables. At school. Where they eat at least one meal and usually two snacks a day. And it’s been a bit of an uphill battle.

Actually, this was an idea that started in the government. (Thank you Senator Tom Harkin from Iowa for conceiving the idea of free fruit and vegetable snacks at schools over 10 years ago.)

Over the last four years, private donors and produce companies have raised more than $1 million to put salad bars in hundreds of schools across the country, and many schools have the money to offer fresh fruit and vegetable snacks. And kids say they love it! They love that they get to choose what to put on their plates, and they like the taste of fresh produce.

But there’s another groundswell going on simultaneously with the same goal: Condition young people to make fresh fruits and vegetables their snack of choice. And it’s been going on in a revolutionary way—revolutionary for the produce industry, at least.

Produce marketers are putting licensed character images on packages of fresh produce so when kids and their parents are in the produce department, the kids say: “I want those oranges with Big Bird on the package.” And we’re having celebrities and famous athletes do advertising campaigns, so young teens say: “I want those baby carrots” (because American women’s soccer champ Alex Morgan says they’re cool).

And although it’s kind of early to have scientifically significant results, the anecdotal feedback is that kids are engaging. Suddenly, it’s cool to like broccoli or dragon fruit.

So next time you want to roll your eyes at those Yoda grapes, give pause then ask yourself if you’d rather kids eat Yoda candy or Yoda grapes.

May the fruit be with you.

Karen