President and CEO
Karen Caplan knows jack…fruit, among many other exotic fruits and vegetables. After all, produce is in her blood.
Products like cherimoyas, Sunchokes®, and passion fruit may be unfamiliar to the average person, but Karen grew up eating and selling them. As the firstborn daughter of entrepreneur Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, founder of Frieda’s Specialty Produce, Karen began working with produce at the age of 10.
After graduating with a degree in Agricultural Economics and Business Management from the University of California-Davis, Karen joined Frieda’s full time. Learning the business from the ground up, Karen worked in just about every department at the company, from packing boxes to sales and marketing. At age 30, Karen was promoted to president and CEO. In 1990 Karen and her sister, Jackie Caplan Wiggins, purchased the company from their mother. With Karen at the helm and Jackie by her side, Frieda’s became the nation’s leading marketer and distributor of specialty produce.
A well-respected leader in the produce industry, Karen was the first female chairperson of the United Fresh Produce Association, a national trade organization representing the produce industry. Karen also served as the first female president of the Southern California-based Fresh Produce & Floral Council. She has been chairman and vice chairman of the USDA Fruit & Vegetable Industry Advisory Committee and a board member of the Federal Reserve Bank, Los Angeles chapter, and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. Karen currently serves on the board of the California Agricultural Leadership Foundation, UC Davis Agricultural Issues Center, CSU-Cal Poly Pomona Dean’s Advisory Board, and the United Fresh Start Foundation. She is also the president of The Trusteeship, an international women’s foundation.
Karen is also an innovative visionary. Her insights on the produce industry, leadership, and food trends are featured in publications such as AndNowUKnow.com and the Shelby Report. She is a frequent keynote speaker and panelist, including appearances at Bitten LA, THRIVE AgTech, and the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit. Her accomplishments have earned her industry recognitions such as the 2015 Women in Produce honoree and the 2016 Jim Hicks Agricultural Achievement Award from CSU-Cal Poly Pomona.
Beyond the industry, Karen serves as a role model for women entrepreneurs, as well as small and family-owned businesses. She has addressed the Los Angeles/Long Beach area of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program and was the keynote speaker at the University of La Verne CEO Summit and the Las Vegas Food Expo. Karen is a frequent guest speaker at local universities.
Karen is an enthusiastic home cook, loves to entertain, and is a passionate foodie and world traveler. She also writes a weekly blog, “What’s on Karen’s Plate?”. Connect with Karen on Twitter @Karen_Kiwi and on LinkedIn.