If I have learned anything from my mother, it has been to be open-minded.

So when I received an unsolicited email from Naz Riahi two months ago introducing herself and inviting me to speak at her food trend conference, #BittenLA, I tried to keep an open mind.

First of all, I had no idea who she was or how to pronounce her name (“nahz ree-ah-hee”), and I had never heard of her conference.

But I loved her friendly, warm writing style so I replied to her. And the following week we spoke on the phone and a few weeks later she flew from New York to visit me at work. It was love at first sight (for both of us)!

Turns out she was born in Iran and her family moved to the United States when she was young. She ended up getting her MFA from The New School in New York City (same school that my youngest daughter, Sophia, attended) and majored in creative writing (her BA is in journalism and Spanish). After a few stints at marketing agencies, she decided to launch her own business, specializing in branding and marketing. And because of her passion for food and her curiosity for how food trends happen, she really stepped out there and decided to create a different kind of food conference. She told me it was like a TED conference, except for food.

In my book, this 35-year-old woman is fearless, and I love to help other entrepreneurs, so I couldn’t resist saying “yes!” But… what did she want me to talk about?

Naz told me I had 18 to 20 minutes to talk about how produce trends happen.

Really? She wanted me to succinctly explain the last 55 years of my life and my work…in 20 minutes. Well, I took a deep breath. And then she said, “You must use PowerPoint slides and you cannot use any notes.”

Goodness!

I still said yes.

And that’s what is so great about being open-minded. Instead of thinking of every reason why I did not have time to write a presentation (I was traveling the two weeks preceding the conference), I thought: “I can do this!”

And then she emailed me the title for my speech: “From Kale to Cherimoyas: Making produce trend.”

And on Friday morning October 28, I ended up being the keynote speaker at the first BittenLA Conference. The vast majority of the audience were Millennials (20- and 30-somethings). It seemed that most were creatives (working in agencies), passionate about food and food experiences.

As I spoke about the confluence of the roles played by chefs, the media, and supermarkets in food trends, then layered over the notion of “food as medicine,” I saw a lot of nodding heads in the audience. They chuckled when I asked if everyone was “over” kale. Or if they felt that jackfruit seemed to be everywhere. (After all, it was featured in the Wall Street Journal just a couple weeks ago.)

But probably the best part of my experience was seeing how one person’s passion gets amplified when she is genuine and inclusive.

As Naz was starting off the morning, she thanked her sponsors and shared her complete joy and appreciation when each of them offered to write her a check to support her conference. Dozens of volunteers ran around setting up the tables for breakfast and lunch, and making sure every detail was attended to. Yes, I said “volunteers.” Many of the volunteers took time off work to support the cause of food, innovation, and breakthroughs. And many had never met Naz before, but had heard about Bitten and wanted to help.

I ended my talk with two quotes. First, one by Eleanor Roosevelt:

 “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Naz told me she was a little nervous when she took the bold step to launch her own marketing and branding agency, and then a few years later the Bitten Conference. And this past week, to bring her conference to Los Angeles. I’d say Eleanor Roosevelt would have been proud of her.

The second quote was our company motto:

 “Eat one fruit a day that scares you.”

Naz highlighted that new fruits and veggies should not be scary—they should be embraced!

I’m so glad my mother instilled in me that I should be open-minded. I hope you will be, too.

Karen

Bitten_Naz_Karen
Bitten founder Naz and me

 

 

 

 

Exotic on-trend varieties meet the growing demand for specialty

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Citrus Pouches

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (October 2016) – Winter is coming, and so are the specialty citrus varieties. Juice up sales by offering peak-season specialty citrus like organic finger limes and Tahitian pummelos to add variety to fall-winter produce displays and menus.

“This year is a good year for specialty citrus,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “We have great supply of exciting varieties like deliciously sweet lemonade lemons and cocktail grapefruits, and top-sellers like kumquats and Meyer lemons.”

Specialty citrus is not only big with shoppers, but also prominent in foodservice. Lemon desserts and gourmet lemonades are popular menu items, according to the National Restaurant Association’s “What’s Hot in 2016” report. The ever-evolving mixology scene and rising tiki cocktail trend also demand colorful, flavorful citrus.

“Shoppers and diners want something outside of just typical fall-winter fruits of apples and ordinary oranges during the cold months. Specialty citrus fills that need,” said Caplan. “You can have a big, beautiful, fragrant display of winter citrus that draws in shoppers, and merchandise it along with juicing companions like ginger and turmeric, or even beer and wine pairing suggestions, for citrus-centric dishes.”

“Ap-peel” to shoppers looking for grab-and-go convenience with Frieda’s branded pouches for top citrus sellers like kumquats, key limes, Meyer lemons, pink lemons, and seedless lemons.

Retailers, wholesalers, and foodservice providers looking to juice up their sales should call a Frieda’s account manager and ask for the above varieties, as well as Buddha’s hand citrons, Ugli®/uniq fruits, calamondins, T’orange lemons, minneolas, centennial kumquats, limequats, mandarinquats, organic vaniglia oranges, and more.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-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 kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, 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. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

Like most of us, each year when my birthday rolls around (as it did this past weekend), I reflect on the previous year, how old I am now, and ultimately how long I will live. It’s not a heavy-duty thought process, but as we get older and wiser, it’s normal to think such thoughts. And since I was vacationing on Maui, Hawaii, last week, I had plenty of time to contemplate.

While there, I was doing some research for an upcoming speech (which I will talk about in my next blog).

The research included a book published in 2015, “The Blue Zones Solution,” by Dan Buettner. The subtitle is “Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People.”

bluezonesbook

This book came to our attention because we have been deluged in the past year with consumers writing to us about our Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes and wanting to find them in their local supermarkets. Many of them mentioned this book and how it piqued their interest in the purple sweet potatoes.

The gist of the book reveals what the world’s longest-lived people have eaten over the past 100 years, with the goal of helping readers lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. That definitely got my attention.

In the chapter titled “A Diet From the World’s Longest-Lived Women: Okinawa, Japan,” one of the highlighted foods is the Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato. This potato is different from the variety we sell (ours are purple-skinned and purple-fleshed), but the benefits appear to be the same. Other top longevity foods from the Okinawan diet include: bitter melons, tofu, turmeric, garlic, brown rice, green tea, Shiitake mushrooms, and seaweeds (Kombu and Wakame).

friedasbittermelon
Bitter Melon
tofu
Tofu
friedasturmeric
Turmeric

Some other chapter titles are: “A Diet From the Longest-Lived Men: Sardinia, Italy,” “An American Blue Zones Diet: Loma Linda, California,” “History’s Best Longevity Diet: Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica,” and “The Secrets of a Mediterranean Diet: Ikaria, Greece.”

As I skimmed through the book, my biggest takeaways and conclusions were:

Nothing in the book was earth-shattering, but it reinvigorated my thought process on being more selective about what I choose to eat. A few years ago I was a vegan for 12 months and recalled how good I felt. At that time, by eliminating dairy (cheese, yogurt, ice cream, milk), all my aches and pains went away. I eventually went back to eating fish, poultry, and occasionally some meat because I was lacking energy. (I cannot eat soy.)

Now, I think it’s time to rethink my current food choices and make a few adjustments.

That’s what’s great about having a birthday. It’s a trigger to reflect on how the last year was and consider any changes we want to make in the coming year.

In addition to relaxing and doing some research while on Maui, I was able to enjoy a couple of meals with my favorite Hawaiian chef, Mark Ellman. I highly recommend all three of his Lahaina restaurants: Mala Ocean Tavern, Honu Seafood & Pizza, and Frida’s Mexican Beach House.

Frieda'sSpecialtyProduce_karenandmarkellman
Me with Mark Ellman

Mark grew up in Southern California and moved to Maui with his wife, Judy, almost 30 years ago. He is credited with inventing the local Hawaiian farm-to-market industry, and his food is always fresh, tasty, and inventive.

Do I want to live to 100? Do you want to live to 100? It seems possible and within our control.

Aloha,

Karen

 

 

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Produce industry leader Karen Caplan to speak at the first Los Angeles edition of New York food conference Friday

Bitten LA

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (October 2016) — The renowned New York event series “Bitten” comes to Los Angeles for the first time this Friday, October 28. Frieda’s Specialty Produce President and CEO Karen Caplan will be the day’s first speaker, the only produce industry professional among an impressive list of disruptors, innovators, and thought leaders in the LA food scene.

Bitten hosts a series of events in New York City, bringing people together to talk about the future of food, looking through the lens of creativity, art, trends, technology, and innovation. For “Bitten LA,” topics will range from food waste reduction to the science of flavor, from cocktail trends to the convergence of science fiction and food. Speakers include Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold and Nyesha Arrington, Bravo’s “Top Chef” contestant and executive chef at Leona in Venice, California.

“I’ve been enamored with the Frieda’s story since reading about it in David Sax’s book, ‘The Tastemakers,’ so I am thrilled to have Karen open our first-ever Los Angeles conference,” said Naz Riahi, founder and CEO of Bitten.

Join Los Angeles’ food trendsetters for a day of inspiration, connections, and good food at the Gallery Theater of Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood, starting at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are available now.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-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 kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, 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. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

Frieda’s impactful new jackfruit label takes the guesswork out of selling and enjoying this trending tropical fruit

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Jackfruit

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (October 2016) — Nothing creates excitement in the produce department like a large display of fresh, whole jackfruit—the latest “it” ingredient. The Wall Street Journal just dubbed jackfruit as one of “The Next Hot Trends in Food,” thanks to its appeal to vegetarians as a meat substitute.

“You cannot miss a pile of jackfruit at retail—it’s definitely a ‘wow’ item that sets stores apart from the competition,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce.

Due to its size and lack of signage or labeling, curious shoppers may have felt intimidated to purchase the large tropical fruit. At the recent PMA Fresh Summit in Orlando, Frieda’s introduced a solution with its new eye-catching ElastiTag label, which showcases the jackfruit’s unique interior flesh while also explaining how to eat the giant fruit. Simple step-by-step instructions can be found on the reverse of the label, along with the URL to Frieda’s “How to Open a Jackfruit” video. Frieda’s new label is large enough to double as POS signage “like a wearable ‘take me home’ sign,” Caplan described.

“What people may not realize is that fresh, ripe jackfruit is very sweet and fragrant, and has qualities of many of your favorite tropical fruits—all in one bite,” said Caplan.

“Jackfruit at retail can weigh anywhere from 8 to 25 pounds, so it’s important that both retailers and consumers know how to handle and prepare it. Although it takes time to extract the edible pods, one jackfruit can yield a great amount of fruit, so we recommend sharing it with friends and family.”

Frieda’s suggests making jackfruit the center of the luau or island-themed party and inviting friends over to learn how to open the fruit together, then sending guests home with their own portions. Allowing shoppers to process their own fruit, rather than fresh cut, gives them greater control over the shelf-life as the pods tend to oxidize when exposed to air.

Frieda’s also offers labeled jackfruit in two packs—4 count (each fruit is 10 pounds) and 2 count (each fruit is 20 pounds).

Retailers looking to stay on trend and offer a wide produce selection will certainly pique their shoppers’ curiosity by displaying fresh jackfruit with Frieda’s impactful branding and fun yet educational messaging.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-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 kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, 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. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

A candidate for a leadership position in my company asked me the most interesting question during our recent interview: “Have you changed at all in the last 10 years? I mean, are you the same leader you were 10 years ago?”

I’d never been asked that question before and I had to pause to think about it. I told him that I am a big believer in continuing education and, in fact, that’s one of the reasons I belong to an international CEO group called “Vistage.” To continually work on my leadership skills, learn from new speakers, and share best practices with other CEOs, I attend a monthly full-day group meeting, have one-on-one sessions with my executive coach, plus I go to the annual regional conference.

When I attended the annual Vistage Executive Conference last week in downtown Los Angeles, I was reminded what a great experience it is. I was one of 450 CEOs from every possible industry: construction, manufacturing, distribution, accounting, fashion, education…everything!

The keynote speaker was the principal of a Philadelphia high school. Linda Cliatt-Wayman was formerly the assistant superintendent of schools for her district. When the district made the decision to merge three rival high schools (think gangs and crosstown rivals) into one, her job was to find a candidate to be the new principal. After an extensive search, which resulted in zero candidates, she resigned her position as assistant superintendent and accepted the position as principal, for a five-year term.

Karen Caplan and Linda Cliatt-Wayman
Me and Linda Cliatt-Wayman

(I encourage you to watch the Diane Sawyer story about Principal Wayman. All of us in the audience watched it before Linda took the stage.)

This amazing leader spoke for about 30 minutes about her experience as principal of Strawberry Mansion High School in the inner city of Philadelphia. She commented that even though she is in education and we in the audience were in business, “Leadership is leadership.”

She shared three slogans that she has used during her career.

So Linda started and ended each day by making this announcement on the campus intercom system: “If nobody told you that they loved you today, remember that I do, and I always will.” For many of the students, it was the ONLY time that someone told them that they were loved. She also knew that many of the students were brilliant and wanted to learn. They didn’t want violence, confrontation, and fighting. They wanted to learn and to better themselves. But they had no choice but to attend Strawberry Mansion. So, by sharing her love and her willingness to love them all, without judgment, Linda changed the lives of everyone at that school.

She also uncovered something that was unspoken, but was the root cause of much tension at the school and in the community—the high school did not have a football team!

strawberrymansonhigh

That may not sound like a big deal, but if you think back to your days in high school, you know that sports, especially football, can bring an entire community together. So, as she relayed her leadership lessons to us, she wove into her talk the story of how she was able to help the school develop a football team for the first time in 50 years. This included funding for a coach, a playing field, and uniforms. And she did this all in spite of all the obstacles, by staying true to her values, stating her goal over and over (even when she had no idea how she would accomplish it), and asking for the support of people who had the same goals she did.

Each of us is a leader. Whether it is in business, in the community, or in our families. Do we have a vision? What are the persistent problems not being addressed?

Leaders must create a picture of success—a vision—and share it. Bold leadership takes courage. Sometimes we need assistance. And sometimes we need to keep stating our vision, over and over, even if it seems as impossible as getting a high school football team after 50 years of obstacles.

So, am I the same leader I was 10 years ago? No way. I’ve learned too much from those around me. And I am open to learning more every day. How about you?

Ask yourself: Are you the same leader you were 10 years ago? Where do you get your inspiration? How do you sharpen your tools?

So what! Now, what?

Karen

The specialty produce company to showcase PMA’s Impact Award-nominated packaging and new Stokes Purple® sweet potato recipes

Frieda's Specialty Produce - PMA Fresh Summit 2016

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (October 2016) — Frieda’s Specialty Produce continues to inspire new food experiences at PMA Fresh Summit with its Millennial-friendly brand and packaging concept, and innovative recipes at booth 2943.

“We launched our new brand at last year’s Fresh Summit, so this year we will highlight how our branded packaging is making an impact,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s. “From our new vegetable pouches to an innovative jackfruit tag, we make buying specialty produce easy for shoppers and that means a sales boost for retailers.”

Frieda’s will feature its new line of pouches including the 2016 Impact Award: Excellence in Packaging finalist watermelon radishes pouch, and its new shishito peppers and Sunchokes® pouches.

Frieda’s team will also sample two new ways to use its exclusive Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes: healthy purple power snack bites and decadent purple sweet potato brownies.

Stop by booth 2943 to see the impactful branding everyone is talking about, or contact Frieda’s account managers today to schedule a time to chat with on-site team members in Orlando October 14 through 16.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-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 kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, 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. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

Yes, October 5 is National Kale Day. Clearly this is not a “hallmark holiday” since we’re not expected to send cards or gifts to anyone. But it’s kind of fun to have a holiday that is centered around one of the trendiest, healthiest foods around.

I actually met the guy who is credited with co-founding, back in 2013, National Kale Day. Dr. Drew Ramsey is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City, and I met him at a produce conference in Texas in April. I wrote all about how kale got to be so popular here, starting in 1996 with the Los Angeles Times publishing a poem entitled “Oh Kale.”

Well, you would have to be living under a rock, or on another planet, not to notice how popular kale has become in the last few years. In fact, it’s so popular that some say it has become the most overused vegetable in America. One might say we are “kaled-out.”

Kale is everywhere. Check out the latest T-shirt one of my work colleagues bought at Target for our “Silly T-shirt Day at Work.”

paula_kale

So, how do you plan to celebrate National Kale Day?

You could wear a cool sweatshirt to work:

kale-sweatshirt

Or, you could order a chopped kale salad at your favorite restaurant. (They are usually on every menu—even Chick-fil-A has added kale salad to its menu!)

kale-salad

Or, you can do what I plan to do and make homemade kale chips at home with a friend. (I found this easy recipe on the Internet.)

Homemade Kale Chips

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Remove the ribs from kale and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and toss with olive oil and salt. Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes. Serve as finger food.

Whatever you do, find a creative way to enjoy this awesome vegetable! It’s time to celebrate!

kale-meme

Karen

’New fruit’ madness during Jewish holiday captures the attention of WSJ

LOS ALAMITOS, CA (October 2016) — The produce industry graced the front page of the Wall Street Journal earlier this week with a feature story on the spike in demand for exotic produce during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana, especially in the New York City area. [Subscription is needed to access full article.]

Published on October 2, “What’s Juicing the Market for Weird Fruit? Rosh Hashana, Obviously” explores the fall grocery store phenomenon which sees shoppers rushing stores for the most exotic fruits they can find to celebrate Jewish New Year. It is a tradition to try a new fruit for Rosh Hashana.

As specialty fruits become more widely available, so grows the demand, year after year, for even more exotic items. According to Sophia Hollander’s article, Baldor senior buyer Patrick Ahern saw exotic fruit sales grow more than 500 percent in 2014 compared with the same week the previous year.

The article indicates that many shoppers do not mind premium pricing as long as they get something new and impressive for their New Year’s celebration. New York-based produce retailers like Gourmet Glatt Emporium and Ouri’s stock exotics because “they know they will sell,” according to Hollander.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce President and CEO Karen Caplan was quoted as saying that stores compete over “who’s got the newest and the weirdest.”

In response to this article, Caplan added, “Rosh Hashana is a great launch pad to start an exotic fruit program. Sales momentum continues after the holiday is over.”

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce celebrates a 54-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 kiwi fruits, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, 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. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.