Los Alamitos, CA (April 2020) – We are in our seventh week of shelter-at-home orders in California amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has been a drastic change for Frieda’s Specialty Produce, where the culture is fueled by face-to-face communication and connection. Many office employees are working from home and the warehouse is abiding by new social distancing regulations that make it feel a little strange at work every day.

It has become increasingly clear that the joy of working from home is wearing off quickly for office workers. Small spaces and the reality of having kids and parents home together brings more pressure to the day, and we all know that people were already stressed out before COVID-19 came onto the scene.

Being in a warehouse environment is no picnic either. Standing 6 feet apart and having a masked conversation with a co-worker feels distant and lacks a human touch.  Taking breaks alone feels, well, lonely.

The leadership team at Frieda’s was worried about the impact on employee engagement and decided to do something about it. “We have a new practice of meeting as leaders every morning on Zoom. We spend A LOT of time talking about how the employees are feeling, and we thought if only they could see us in action, just like before COVID-19 hit,” says Karen Caplan, president and CEO. “We wanted to ensure that they know how truly grateful we are for everything they are doing to make sure that our retailers are fully stocked with our fresh, delicious produce.”

So, the Frieda’s leadership team followed in the footsteps of “Saturday Night Live at Home” and the “One World: Together at Home” concert and used their Zoom meeting to record themselves working at home. They first rehearsed as a dry run but the first take was so sweet, simple and sincere that they decided to go with it.  “If there is anything this crisis has taught us, it is that sometimes imperfect is absolutely perfect,” Caplan notes.

The video seems to have worked and brought similes to the faces of Frieda’s. “THAT. WAS. BRILLIANT!!! Really made my dayJ,” said Tricia Gil, executive assistant.

Enjoy the video here.

https://youtu.be/04CQHVRnpIU

 

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 and dragon fruit to Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and 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.

Ever wonder exactly what dragon fruit is? With the cultural fascination of dragons (think “Game of Thrones,” The Hobbit, “How to Train your Dragon”), it’s no wonder that the produce spotlight would be turned to this funny-looking tropical fruit reminiscent of flame throwing. But what is dragon fruit? What do you do with it, and how are the different varieties, well, different? Look no further than this ultimate dragon fruit guide. Spoiler alert—there is a dragon in this fairy tale.

 

Step #1 – Go dragon hunting

Dragon fruit, also known as pitaya, is a beautiful tropical cactus fruit that is a cousin to the cactus pear. Although it is the fruit of a cactus, it does not have any spines or needles on the outer skin. Originally grown in Mexico and Central America, today it can be found growing all over the world in places like Ecuador, Israel, Vietnam, Nicaragua, California and Florida. Dragon fruit tastes like a combination of kiwifruit and pear, and different varieties have different flavors and sweetness levels (more to come on that). This stunning cactus fruit is speckled with edible seeds and the flesh is high in water content, making it the perfect summer fruit.

Dragon fruit is known for containing prebiotic fiber to promote gut health, specifically encouraging the growth of the probiotics lactobacilli and bifidobacteria. Not to mention, dragon fruit also contains multiple classes of antioxidants including flavonoids, phenolic acid, and betacyanin. Plus, the fruit has small amounts of several other key nutrients including vitamin C, iron, magnesium, protein and calcium. More on that here.

Dragon fruit is available year-round, but different varieties may be available at different times of the year. To extend the shelf life of these beauties, you can scoop out the flesh and freeze it.

There are many different kinds of dragon fruit that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, sweetness and flavor profiles, and color combinations—ranging from red skin/white flesh to red skin/red flesh to yellow skin/white flesh. Let’s take a closer look:

 

Red skin/white flesh

The most common dragon fruit variety, this dragon fruit has red skin with white flesh and black seeds. It has an earthy flavor and is the least sweet of all dragon fruit varieties. This type of dragon fruit is extremely popular in Asian cuisine and is used for summer refreshment, mealtime palate cleansers and snacking. We love how this dragon fruit comes in its own bowl—simply scoop out the flesh, dice it up and add it back in with berries and melon for a beautiful fruit salad. This type of dragon fruit is typically available year-round and is the most widely grown worldwide.

 

Red skin/red flesh

 

A favorite of ours, red dragon fruit is the most striking with bright magenta flesh. The flavor is sweeter than the white-flesh variety, with a hint of berry. Red-flesh dragon fruit is commonly found growing in Nicaragua where it is magically fertilized in the rich volcanic soil, making it more flavorful and sweet. Compared to the red skin/white flesh variety, red dragon fruit is round with small leaves aka “bracts.” Red dragon fruit is also grown in Israel where it is smaller and looks different than its other friends––much like a giant, pink pine cone.

Just a little bit of red dragon fruit will go a long way. It is terrific in cocktails and popsicles, but you’ll need to rinse your cutting board immediately after because that delicious red juice likes to flow (it can stain your hands or any light-colored surfaces). This dragon fruit is usually available from summer into fall.

 

 

Yellow skin/white flesh

This is the sweetest of all dragons! The inside is almost translucent and the seeds are larger than in other varieties. This yellow dragon fruit is commonly grown in Ecuador. The bracts on this vibrant yellow variety are smaller and less leafy than on its red-skinned counterparts. We call this the “gateway” dragon fruit, since it is the sweetest and most flavorful. One bite and you’ll be hooked! We love this one in fresh, fruity salsa that pairs well with fish, or just eat it straight out of the skin with a spoon. Yellow dragon fruit is usually available in bursts throughout most of the year.

 

Step #2 – Know a dragon when you see it

What’s the difference between dragon fruit and pitaya?

The actual name pitaya, or pitahaya (they are interchangeable), stems from the Latin American heritage of this beautiful exotic fruit. This tropical fruit is native to Central America (dating back to the 13th century). However, it made its way to Vietnam and Malaysia (probably because of its popularity with Asian consumers), where it is now widely grown. We’ve heard that the Vietnamese name, “thang loy,” somehow translates into the English words “dragon fruit.” In Israel, where the fruit is commercially grown and then imported into the U.S., growers like to call it “pitaya” or “pitahaya,” while Vietnamese growers label theirs “dragon fruit,” thus the different names.

So, whether you see them called pitaya, pitahaya, or dragon fruit, they are all basically the same fruit.

 

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Grilled Tropical Fruit Kebabs

 

Step #3 – Befriend the dragon

Dragon fruit is extremely versatile. Its refreshing nature is perfect for smoothies and smoothie bowls— ideal warm-weather breakfasts.

Because the flavor is so neutral, it is a nice fruit complement to other fruits that like to steal the flavor show including berries, pineapple, citrus and açai. That means dragon fruit was destined for fruit salads and spicy salsa. You can even grill it, in fact, we “heart” these grilled tropical fruit kebabs.

But don’t end the day there! Dragon fruit is the perfect garnish for cocktails and can add a beautiful decorative flourish to any dessert. We also love it in sorbet.

 

 

So go forth, hunt for your dragon and let us know what you find!

 

To check out more of our Ultimate Guides, click here, here and here.

Frieda’s Engages Employees with Heartfelt Gratitude Video

 

Los Alamitos, CA (April 2020) – We are in our seventh week of shelter-at-home orders in California amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has been a drastic change for Frieda’s Specialty Produce, where the culture is fueled by face-to-face communication and connection. Many office employees are working from home and the warehouse is abiding by new social distancing regulations that make it feel a little strange at work every day.

It has become increasingly clear that the joy of working from home is wearing off quickly for office workers. Small spaces and the reality of having kids and parents home together brings more pressure to the day, and we all know that people were already stressed out before COVID-19 came onto the scene.

Being in a warehouse environment is no picnic either. Standing 6 feet apart and having a masked conversation with a co-worker feels distant and lacks a human touch. Taking breaks alone feels, well, lonely.

The leadership team at Frieda’s was worried about the impact on employee engagement and decided to do something about it. “We have a new practice of meeting as leaders every morning on Zoom. We spend A LOT of time talking about how the employees are feeling, and we thought if only they could see us in action, just like before COVID-19 hit,” says Karen Caplan, president and CEO. “We wanted to ensure that they know how truly grateful we are for everything they are doing to make sure that our retailers are fully stocked with our fresh, delicious produce.”

So, the Frieda’s leadership team followed in the footsteps of “Saturday Night Live at Home” and the “One World: Together at Home” concert and used their Zoom meeting to record themselves working at home. They first rehearsed as a dry run but the first take was so sweet, simple and sincere that they decided to go with it. “If there is anything this crisis has taught us, it is that sometimes imperfect is absolutely perfect,” Caplan notes.

The video seems to have worked and brought similes to the faces of Frieda’s. “THAT. WAS. BRILLIANT!!! Really made my day!” said Tricia Gil, executive assistant.

Enjoy the video 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 and dragon fruit to Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and 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.

Times like these allow us the opportunity to discover what we are truly made of, and for me, perspective is key. Thanks to COVID-19 and social distancing and sheltering from home mandates, I have now been working from my home office for more than four weeks and have had time to reflect on what lessons I’ve learned from this experience. My decades in this industry have taught me much about crises and resiliency, and how to see obstacles as opportunities.

One of the lessons that I have gleaned from this time, in partnership with my experience moving through the ups and downs of the produce industry is that you should Plan for Future Opportunities. Play for the rebound. The produce industry is a resilient business.  And there will be a new normal, with plenty of opportunities for those who have planned ahead. If you have people in your business who are focused on the day-to-day and the here and now, then make sure you are looking at three, six, even 12 months down the road. Do you have the right team for your future business model? Are you selling the right products?  Is your customer mix optimal? I imagine those produce companies who were focused almost 100 percent on food service must be evaluating how they can diversify. Are there opportunities to partner with other companies—companies you would have never considered before?

Another lesson I have learned is: Make decisions that are best for your business. It was Winston Churchill who said, “No crisis should go to waste.”  In business, during this crisis, many of us are being forced to make difficult decisions: decisions about people, suppliers, products, and customers.  Let’s be honest, how many of us already knew that we had issues with people, suppliers, or customers? Probably all of us. But we never took care of making those tough decisions, because, well, we didn’t HAVE to.  But now, at a time when we are being forced to make those difficult, life-changing decisions to assure our viability as businesses, we are making them. This allows us to re-prioritize and do a deep dive into our values and find that resiliency. Each challenge is an opportunity for discovery.

Always remember to take care of yourself first. If you are not in a good space you cannot take care of anyone else. That is why the most important priority is to take care of ourselves— physically and mentally.  Getting enough sleep, a regular exercise regime (preferably outdoors for fresh air) and making healthy eating choices. During the workday, I make myself get up every hour or so, for a walk around the house.  After work, walks or hikes are the highlight of every day (if it’s not raining) and having set sleeping hours has certainly made getting in this new work-from-home (WFH) rhythm easier. Social distancing i.e. not seeing friends in person has been a challenge. Connecting with friends—whether they are in produce or not—helps with our mental health.  Even if you have to make a “Friends List” and schedule time each day to call at least one friend or see them via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, staying connected will prevent that feeling of isolation.

And the lesson that should remain a steadfast practice rain or shine: Show gratitude. Be grateful. Whether you are grateful to be healthy, or grateful for your friends and family—or grateful for a paycheck or a nimble business strategy.  At least once a day, I find myself being grateful, even in the midst of the trials and tribulations of running a company, having friends face health challenges, and not being able to see my family, coworkers, and friends in person. I can always find something that I am grateful for.  And stopping, taking a deep breath and saying it out loud causes me to be a little bit calmer.

A few years from now, as we look back on 2020, we will say “I am a better person because of what I learned during that crazy year.”  Let’s not forget, this is a great year to make lemonade out of Meyer Lemons.

Onward and upward,

Karen

I am not a game person. I don’t play cards and I don’t do puzzles. (Or at least that’s what I’ve always told myself.)

However, occasionally my BFF Betsy will invite me over for an evening of cards with her poker group. Or when I visit my friends David and Paula in Prescott, Ariz., we will work on a puzzle between glasses of wine and rounds of golf.

But honestly, I can count on one hand the number of times I have played Monopoly in my life.

Enter: social distancing and sheltering at home.

So, I’ve been working from home for almost four weeks, and after working hours and an evening walk, it’s been a challenge to decide on evening entertainment. Oh, did I mention that I don’t really watch much TV?

So one evening, my partner Jack says to me, “Have you ever played MasterMind®?” Uh, did I mention that I don’t play games?

I took a deep breath and said, “No, have never heard of it.”  So, Jack tells me that it was the “Game of the Year” in 1973 and it’s his favorite travel game, as only two people play it.

Out comes this plastic box filled with colored pegs.

 

Jack tells me this is his travel version and I quickly Google it to find out that not only are there regular-sized MasterMind® sets, but you can with play it online alone or with friends!

Here’s the lowdown on the game, based on my first three experiences.

  1. There are six colors of pegs:  Red, Yellow, Orange, Blue, Green and Brown.
  2. One person (the codemaker), arranges four pegs in a shielded part of the board (any color combination of one, two, three or four colors).
  3. The second person (the codebreaker) has the job of figuring out the correct colors and proper order, by arranging four pegs on the board.
  4. The codemaker scores the setup of the pegs: for each correct color you give a white peg and for each correct color in the correct location, a black peg.
  5. You have six chances to guess the correct color configuration.

Now, because I am not a regular game player, this game sounded ludicrous. I mean, how would you be able to figure it out? But, because I am fairly competitive, I decided to give it a go. During my first go-around as the codebreaker, I talked through my thought process with Jack (who has played it hundreds of times). I was surprised by using deductive reasoning, and testing various colors and positions, during my first game I solved the problem in six rounds! The second and third time I solved the problem in five rounds.

As I was playing the game, I realized that I was working different parts of my brain than I normally use during the day. And it felt kind of good. Was I actually learning a few business lessons from playing MasterMind®? In business and in life, I learned that by taking a break from my normal routine I was exercising different parts of my brain.

I learned that even if a solution seems impossible, by using deductive reasoning and eliminating options, I could—by process of elimination—figure out the answer. By talking possible options through—out loud—the simple act of hearing my evaluation of both the current scenario and the desired state helped me find the perfect solution.

Unfortunately in this game, you cannot consult someone else. It is you, the codebreaker, against your opponent, the codemaker. But doesn’t that happen in business, too? You don’t have time or the option to consult someone else who might see things from a different view. Sometimes we have to make decisions on our own, with what seems to be limited information. So it is important that we train ourselves to consider all options, use all available information and concentrate.

Although I’ve never been a big fan of playing games, my eyes have been opened to how games and game strategy can help us with other challenges in our life.

If you’ve never heard of MasterMind®—or played it—I encourage you to check it out. I’ve become a big fan.

I see more game playing in my future. Monopoly, anyone?

Karen

Los Alamitos, CA (April 2020) – What do shoppers look for when selecting a fresh coconut? A new study reveals the fresher the better, and that less processed is more important than easy-to-open.

According to a 2020 survey from C + R Research, 38% of shoppers say that they are likely to purchase a coconut from the produce aisle. With easy-to-open coconuts coming onto the scene we were left wondering whether consumers valued convenience more than freshness? The survey revealed amongst onsumers who want to purchase coconuts, 83% say they prefer water from a fresh coconut to one that is easy to open, and the same number of people also stated a preference for water from a fresh coconut vs packaged coconut water. Fresh is king.

These insights are just in time for the warm weather. “A fresh young coconut is perfect for hydration and turns any mixed drink into a tropical escape,” says Alex Berkley, Frieda’s sales director. “Young coconuts make a weekend afternoon in the backyard a tropical getaway – just add a straw and umbrella.”

Frieda’s recommends merchandising young coconuts in the berry case or on ice, especially around the holiday weekends this summer. Or pair with prepared guacamole, which is always a traffic driver when merchandised on ice at the front of the produce aisle. Why not entice shoppers to add a young coconut to their basket to increase dollar basket ring?

Drive your produce sales this summer with Frieda’s young coconuts. Available in 9 ct cases year round in conventional and organic. 100% global GAP certified SMETA. Call your Frieda’s account manager today for merchandising and signage solutions to make the most of your summer sales.

Source:
2020. C+R Research Omnibus Survey. Sample size of 1,000 people. Representative of total U.S. demographics.

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 and dragon fruit to Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes and 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.
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Obviously, the hardest part of this entire “social distancing” requirement is that we cannot spend physical time with our family, friends and coworkers. Sure, we can wave at our neighbors on neighborhood walks, but what about those friends who we used to get coffee with, or in my case, see at the multitude of industry conferences and meetings?

I’ve decided to attack this challenge the same way I do my normal work stuff. I’m going to plan my day in advance and make a list of everything I want to do—in this case, who I want to connect with.

How about this?

  1. Make a list of all the friends you normally keep in touch with.
  2. Make a separate list of your family members who you want to touch base with.
  3. Get out your daily calendar (or use the task list in Outlook on your computer) and block out time each day for touch-base calls. Block out this time on your calendar a week at a time vs. each day.
  4. Text or email each of your friends and family and slot them into times that work for both of you. Try blocks of 15 minutes or 30 minutes. Be sure to give yourself breaks between calls.
  5. I’ve found that for me two calls a day is optimal (mostly because I am working from home during the day).
  6. Get a feel for how often you want to touch base with people. With my two daughters, I check in daily. Sometimes the calls are 5 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes. For friends, the calls may be once a week, and for others twice a month.
  7. Make a check-mark on your lists (above) to indicate when you’ve completed each call.
  8. Consider sending the person a quick text after your call to show your gratitude to them. Emojis are a great way to express your feelings. Or, go old school, and pen a handwritten note. (Good use for all that stationary you’ve had sitting in your desk drawer!)
  9. And be ready to throw out the plan when you need to! Sometimes I just need to call my sister Jackie and have a good laugh. Connecting with others has done wonders to get me through this crazy time.

And what about exercising? I keep seeing photos of friends on Facebook and Instagram who are baking and cooking up a storm. I’m a bit worried to see what happens after a few months of this—will all of us have gained unwanted weight? (I use a fitness app to track my weight a couple of times a week. This keeps me honest.)

I’ve really become diligent about tracking my steps each day and writing down what kind of physical activity I’m doing daily, including how long I spend exercising. Working from home, it’s super easy to stay seated at my desk all day and not find time for exercise. So, each day I fill my Month-at-a-Glance calendar with:

  1. Number of steps each day
  2. Type and length of exercise completed
  3. Books I’ve completed
  4. Number of handwritten notes I’ve sent
  5. Hours of sleep each night

I have also heard about some of the family dance challenges on social media and that seems like a great way to keep you moving along with your quarantine-mates!

I know it might sound a little crazy to be tracking so many things and planning out my personal phone calls to friends and family, but I’ve found that I am getting so much more done by taking an organized approach to each day. And that’s exactly what I’ve learned from time management experts: Those who approach their personal lives with the same discipline and focus that they do in planning their work day, get the most done and feel the most personal satisfaction.

It’s so easy during this time of “work from home” to let the hours of the day ebb and flow, and all of the sudden another day has passed. Try some of these hacks and see how much more accomplished and positive you feel at end of each day!

Karen