I don’t know about you, but this year just flew by for me. Thankfully, the great thing about being a blogger is I can recall most of the things that were on my mind this year as I wrote them all down!

Looking Back

It has been gratifying to see people’s reaction and responses to my posts here. And when I repost on LinkedIn, I get a real-time sense whether what I am writing about is relevant.

To Hug or Not to Hug” is my most read and shared post of 2017. Soon after that post, the big Hollywood misconduct story broke, and people who discovered my post later were surprised that I would write about that in this climate. When I wrote it, I wanted to talk about how important personal, and sometimes physical, connection has become in this age of impersonal communication technology. Interesting turn of events, isn’t it?

Another interesting and controversial topic I wrote about last year is The Unexpected Question About Cannabis. It’s the hottest California crop right now and a very timely subject to discuss because it’s going to be legal in California in just a few days.

Even more polarizing was my recent post about Non-GMO Madness. It’s good to understand different points of view and get all the information we need to make an informed decision.

The next popular post was Lessons from Billionaire Stewart Resnick. My key takeaway from Stewart is that you have to spend time on things you don’t like in order to do the things you really love. It is clear that this message resonates with many of you.

It also became clear to me that we are all getting bored with our fitness routines when I posted Why I Quit My Gym. Just so you know, I’m still changing things up as I go.

I’m also thrilled that I got to share one of my all-time favorite books with you. I hope The Five-Second Rule That Changes Everything is also now one that you follow.

Looking Forward

As we reflect on the past year and give some thought to what we want to do in 2018, I am happy to share what I’m thinking for the new year:

Spend time with my top 5 people. As my dear friend Jack Daly advised, think about the top three to five people (besides your family members) who you spend the most time with. Are they “upping your game, adding to your life?” Or does hanging out with them feel like an obligation? I’ve decided to only spend time with people who are positive, add to my life, and I truly enjoy. No more obligations!

See the country…and the world. I already have trips planned this year to visit the Grand Canyon, Maui, South Africa, Australia, Panama, and Italy. There is no time like the present to work on that bucket list!

Golf more. I have been enjoying golf since I picked up the clubs earlier this year, so I want to do more of that. And the best part is being outdoors and being with friends.

Hug! You already know that I’m a hugger. And I will keep hugging people when I see them!

Allocate some private time for myself every day. Whether it is first thing each morning when I meditate or when I journal at the end of the day, making quiet time for me is an important part of work/life balance.

Source: Woodbourne Designs LLC on Etsy

Happy New Year, and may 2018 be the best ever!

Karen

I noticed a dramatic decrease in the number of holiday cards I received at work this year. This could be due to people trying to be more mindful of the environment by using less paper, trying to save money, realizing that sending out cards en masse for business may be out of date, or all of the above.

Whatever the reason is, I’m happy fewer cards are sent. Let me tell you why.

In business, I do not understand sending a holiday card to a supposedly important client, when there is nothing personal about the card. You know what I mean.

The inside of the card is pre-printed with the sending company’s name or logo, which may or may not include the names of the owners or the employee who sent it. And don’t get me started on adding digital signatures!

Although mail-merged, printed address labels are obviously impersonal, I can understand the efficiency of that method. But digital signatures?

If I’m an important client of a company, how important do I feel if I get a pre-printed card that looks like it was ordered from a card company from 20 years ago with a digital signature and no personal message? Not at all, that’s how I feel.

There is no personal relationship here with this card someone picked out of a catalog from a greeting card company they’ve been buying from for years. Nobody stopped to ask, “Does this still make sense to send these cards?”

Going with digital cards doesn’t make it much better either. A “happy holidays” email blasted out to a mass email list may have a clever image of the staff or product, but it doesn’t have a personal note from whoever is sending it. Just what I need for the holidays, another impersonal email taking up space in my inbox.

These days, people want a personal connection. In today’s world, where we can be overwhelmed and deluged with mass emails and robo-calls, it’s nice to receive a personal message, especially during the holidays.

Everyone should make their own decision on whether they want to invest the time and money to send out holiday cards. My only request is to think about what message you are sending with your holiday greeting choices.

For me, it has always been that personal touch. For business, I send my contacts personalized emails, one person at a time. If it’s a close relationship, I text them and sometimes we end up chatting on the phone after.

As for my personal greeting cards, I’m old-fashioned. I hand-address my holiday cards. Yes, I could have printed labels, but it’s important to me personally to address them myself because as I address them, I think about each person and send my loving thoughts to them. It’s an intention I make with each and every card I send.

If you do decide to send out a holiday card or email, consider adding a special touch to your greeting by making a donation to a charity in honor of your friends and colleagues. It could be to their favorite charities or a cause of your choice that you know they’d support.

Keep it real this holiday season!

Karen

Non-GMO vodka? Really?

When I saw this ad, I realized it’s finally time to blog about GMOs. I have been putting off writing this post for many years because GMOs are a controversial subject. And that is mostly because many people do not know the facts about GMOs. So I will share some of what I know and what I’ve learned so far, in hopes that you will be more enlightened to make your own decision about them.

First of all, what is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) when it comes to crops? GMOAnswers says this:

Genetic engineering, also referred to as biotechnology, allows plant breeders to take a desirable trait found in nature and transfer it from one plant or organism to the plant they want to improve, as well as make a change to an existing trait in a plant they are developing. Some examples of desirable traits commonly transferred include resistance to insects and disease, and tolerance to herbicides that allows farmers to better control weeds.

Clearly, GMO is a scientific term, stating exactly what it is—a genetically modified organism. I’m sure a roomful of scientists didn’t think that one day the term GMO would be used when referring to consumer goods, especially food.

The words “genetically modified organism” sound scary from the get-go. So it does not surprise me that most people react negatively to the term, even if they don’t know what GMO stands for. (“Something that has to do with genetics?” is what I usually hear.)

Furthermore, it didn’t help that in the earlier days of GMO science, there were stories going around about scientists putting the genes from fish into vegetables, causing concern for people who have fish allergies. Some of those stories are still going around today.

Here are some facts about GMOs.

Currently only 10 crops in the U.S. have been genetically engineered (using precise plant breeding) and are commercially available. They are corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, one papaya (the rainbow variety from Hawaii), some squash, one potato (less-browning), and one apple (non-browning Arctic variety). Some of these items only have one cultivar, like the Arctic apple, which was created using genetic engineering, meaning that the rest of the varieties were not genetically modified.

What bothers me most about the term GMO is that an entire industry has sprung up around the frenzy, such as the Non-GMO Project, which claims to verify products for being non-GMO even when, in fact, those products don’t include any of the 10 crops listed.

A prime example is the vodka shown above in the ad. While some vodka is distilled from potatoes, Ketel One is made with wheat. Oh, excuse me, it’s “non-GMO grain.” Since wheat is already a non-GMO crop, this really isn’t anything to write home about. Yet, the company decided to jump on the non-GMO bandwagon and make a claim that makes the consumer wonder about other brands of vodka.

I personally don’t think that’s right.

Even though our media seems to thrive on scaring viewers, or inciting worry and filling people with doubt, I get mildly annoyed when I see “Non-GMO Verified” on foods that are simply outside of that category.

Now, the website GMOAnswers I cited from earlier is supported by many seed companies that fund research in seed production, which may include genetically engineered products. I also know that there are many forms of breeding, of which genetically engineered is just one. There are old technologies like natural breeding, and some very new technologies like gene editing with CRISPR/Cas9.

I know that the technological advances being made in food production and agriculture can help us grow more food to eradicate hunger on the planet, producing plants that are disease-resistant or drought-tolerant, or plants that can thrive on over-salinized soil or that contains additional nutrients. For example, Golden Rice is genetically-modified to contain beta-carotene to fight vitamin A deficiency in south and southeast Asia. And with the way that the Cavendish bananas we know and love are suffering from a catastrophically devastating disease, GMO may be the only way to save the world’s crop.

In contrast, there is an ever-growing movement toward nutrient-dense foods, dealing with mineral depletion in our diet, and more organic food production, which is wonderful and affordable for first-world countries that have plenty of disposable income.

So, what can you do? Educate yourself. Know that just because you read it on the Internet does not make it the truth. In doing research for this post, I found websites that had clearly incorrect information on them, information that was written with a hidden agenda to promote their products, their brands, and their lifestyle.

Next time you see “Non-GMO Verified” on a product package, I hope you will see if the product is one of the 10 crops listed above.

Also, by definition, anything that is USDA-certified Organic cannot use GMO crops.

Disclaimer: I am not unilaterally for or against GMOs. I am in favor of knowing all the facts from both sides of the conversation and forming one’s own opinion. Eyes wide open.

Karen

Frieda’s Specialty Produce offers special training and programming to help retailers ring in Year of the Dog

Los Alamitos, CA (December 2017) – Draw in shoppers to your store with the unique food experience of a Chinese New Year promotion. Frieda’s Specialty Produce offers special support to customers who book a Chinese New Year promotion by January 10; it includes a holiday promotion playbook, team training, point-of-sale support, and key merchandising recommendations to create a successful program.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Chinese New Year 2018 - Year of the Dog

Chinese New Year (also known as “Lunar New Year” or “Spring Festival”) is one of the biggest food holidays, and is celebrated across the country and around the world. The Year of the Dog begins on February 16, but the celebration starts a few days before and continues for 15 days afterward with feasts focusing on fresh produce, meat, and seafood.

Since the number six is considered lucky in Chinese tradition, here are six reasons retailers need Chinese New Year promotions.

1. Boost Winter Sales

Other winter promotions like the Big Game and Valentine’s Day promotions do not always translate into bigger sales in the produce department. However, the Chinese New Year celebration is all about fruits and vegetables, and it goes beyond just the one day.

“The celebration may begin a few days before the actual new year’s day on February 16, but the key to success is to have your stores ready to go with full displays starting in early February and continue promotions through the end of the month,” said Alex Jackson Berkley, assistant sales manager at Frieda’s.

2. Unique In-store Experience

According to SupermarketGuru’s 2018 trends forecast, shoppers will be looking for a multi-sensory food experience—they want to interact with foods. “Chinese New Year is a great opportunity to engage in-store shoppers with an experience they can’t get from shopping online, and that definitely will set your store apart from the competition,” said Berkley. “Make an event out of the holiday with sampling and cross-promotions with other departments.”

3. Produce Showcase

Traditional feasts feature top Asian sellers such as ginger, daikon radishes, and Shanghai bok choy. “Create a destination with a refrigerated Chinese New Year spot display with Asian staple vegetables and complementary items such as wonton and egg roll wrappers, edamame, and kimchi,” recommended Berkley. “Specialty citrus such as kumquats, pummelo, and mandarin oranges are used as gifts, so a bountiful citrus display will not go unnoticed.”

4. Halo Effect

Shoppers buying produce items for Chinese New Year will also purchase seafood, meat, floral arrangements, and other center-aisle Asian grocery items. “The promotions can span the store through collaboration with other departments to further boost sales,” said Berkley.

5. A Food Holiday for All

This promotion is not just for Asian shoppers who celebrate the holiday. “Chinese New Year is a foodie holiday!” said Berkley. “After all, Chinese food is one of the top three most consumed ethnic foods in the United States. Shoppers are looking for ingredients to make authentic meals at home. This promotion is the perfect opportunity to showcase your Asian produce selection to all shoppers, a key to remaining competitive.”

Asian cuisines and flavors have been trending for the past few years, across all regions of the U.S. A Chinese New Year promotion gives retailers the opportunity to feature their specialty offerings so shoppers will return for their Asian grocery needs throughout the year.

6. Attract Growing Asian Population

“With a Chinese New Year promotion, retailers can start building a relationship with the growing Asian demographic,” said Berkley.

According to a Nielsen report, Asian-Americans are the fastest growing population with significant buying power. Asians of Chinese ancestry represent about 20 percent of the group. Asian-Americans purchase 72 percent more fresh vegetables and 29 percent more fresh fruit per household than does the total U.S. population.

Frieda’s has a proven, nearly 45-year track record for helping produce retailers create successful Chinese New Year programs. Get ahead of the pack and call Frieda’s account managers today to book a Chinese New Year promotion. Also find more inspiration here.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

Bring the Color of the Year into supermarkets with vibrant purple produce

Los Alamitos, CA (December 2017) – Purple still reigns, according to Pantone, the global authority on color, announcing “Ultra Violet” as the 2018 Color of the Year. Pantone’s selection comes on the heels of a report by Frieda’s Specialty Produce naming colorful produce (including purple) a 2018 food trend.

Each year, Pantone chooses a color that symbolizes design trends and the cultural mood. “Inventive and imaginative, Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come,” according to Pantone’s website.

“The description of Ultra Violet hits home with us because purple has been our color from the very beginning,” said Alex Jackson Berkley of Frieda’s. “My grandmother, Frieda Rapoport Caplan, opened the business with a purple sign in 1962. She was the first woman to own a produce business and purple became a symbolic color for the company’s passion and innovation.”

Since 2012, when Frieda’s launched their “Power of Purple” program, they have been helping customers create exciting in-store experiences around this popular color.

“The popularity of purple produce shows no sign of slowing as more shoppers are discovering the nutritional values of purple produce and the photo-friendly color it adds to their plates,” said Berkley. “With Pantone’s latest news, we are already creating some new promotions and programs to increase the customer experience in store. Stay tuned for our announcements in the near future.”

As the purple produce experts, Frieda’s team is at the ready to help produce merchandisers bring #PurplePowerToThePeople by creating bountiful purple displays showcasing purple cauliflower, asparagus, baby potatoes, kohlrabi, and baby carrots, along with passion fruit, eggplant, radicchio, Treviso, and shoppers’ favorite Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

Contra-seasonal availability creates hot holiday sales opportunities

Los Alamitos, CA (December 2017) – The Southern Hemisphere is lighting up the Northern Hemisphere with supplies of fresh lychees for the holiday season. Starting in now, Frieda’s offer South African-grown lychees to customers in 10-pound bulk cartons and 12-ounce clamshells, which reduce shrink and leakage.

Fresh lychees have traditionally been available in spring and early summer from the Americas, so contra-seasonal availability has opened up additional sales opportunities for retailers during the holiday months. Since South African lychee import to the U.S. was permitted in 2015, Frieda’s has distributed increasing volume and expects this season to be the best yet with supplies through January.

The Asian demographic has traditionally been the top purchasers of lychees in the U.S. and they tend to buy in bulk. Since Chinese New Year starts on February 18, stocking up on lychee in January will help create more sales. Furthermore, the fruit’s popularity has grown in recent years, expanding the demand to culinary enthusiasts and millennials who are more likely to purchase the product in a clamshell, helping to reduce shrink for the retailer.

“Getting lychees this time of year is an absolute treat and they will be quickly snapped up by shoppers as an impulse buy,” said Alex Jackson Berkley, senior account manager at Frieda’s. “And because they tend to be a limited-supply and hard-to-find fruit, shoppers do not mind paying a premium for them, especially during the holiday season.”

The renowned lychee has rough, bumpy skin with a juicy, grape-like flesh and one large inedible seed. Lychees feature a fragrant sweet-tart flavor profile. Frieda’s recommends displaying fresh lychees under refrigeration to extend shelf life.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is 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.

I’m a coffee drinker. Actually, in some ways I am a bit of a coffee snob. At home, I’ve switched from my beloved Peet’s coffee (which I have brewed every morning for at least 15 years) to my new favorite, Lavazza Classico medium roast. It’s not quite as strong as Peet’s, yet very rich-bodied.

But occasionally, especially in the evenings, I like to have a cup of tea. Especially when I am cold.

I’m pretty boring with the tea—Lipton’s black tea and hot water.

But last week, while visiting a tea-drinking friend, I was introduced to a much more sophisticated form of the home tea experience.

Enter the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker.

You can watch a four-minute YouTube video about how the One-Touch Tea Maker works.

Here is a quick recap of what I learned about tea: Different types of tea (black, green, or herbal) require different temperatures of water and lengths of time for steeping. Who knew?

 

As someone whose tea experimentation has revolved around ordering Earl Grey or English Breakfast tea when I am out and only drinking Lipton’s when I’m home, I was intrigued with what is known as “The Art of Tea.” I never considered that different tea types might have optimal flavor when brewed at difference temperatures. Or that steeping time would have such a tremendous effect.

But then again, I am a coffee drinker. I do understand the difference between Robusta and Arabica coffee beans and that you grind them differently depending on whether you have a drip coffee maker, French press, or pour-over cone.

I actually do have a Nespresso machine, a large French press, and my tried-and-true Capresso coffee maker, all sitting on my kitchen counter. And an electric kettle that I bought last year for making my evening tea.

But now, after watching the One-Touch Tea Maker, with its basket being slowly lowered into perfectly heated water, I can see how tea drinkers would enjoy their own specialty tea-brewing accessory to make their tea experience as enjoyable as my early morning coffee-brewing ritual.

So, if you have a close friend or loved one who just loves tea, you may want to splurge and get them a One-Touch for Hanukkah or Christmas. Or maybe for yourself!

Happy tea drinking!

Karen