Frieda Caplan, founder and board chair of Frieda’s Inc., will receive the United Fresh Produce Association’s lifetime achievement award at the trade group’s winter leadership meetings.
Caplan will be honored for her contributions to the produce industry at a Jan. 28 dinner to be held during those meetings in Tucson, Ariz.
She was one of the first women to own and operate a U.S. produce business in 1962, when she opened Frieda’s Finest/Produce Specialties Inc. on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market.
Her featured item then was fresh brown mushrooms, but she went on to earn the nickname “Queen of Kiwi” for her work in introducing and promoting kiwifruit in the U.S. Other successful items included sugar snap peas, hothouse cucumbers, habanero chiles and Kiwano melons.
“Frieda Caplan truly is the model for a lifetime achievement award in the produce industry,” United Fresh president Tom Stenzel said in a news release. “From the very start she epitomized the classic produce entrepreneur, always pushing forward as a progressive marketer, savvy business personality and as a leader in our industry.”
In its 50th anniversary year, Los Alamitos, Calif.-based Frieda’s supplies more than 600 varieties of exotics fruits, gourmet vegetables and other items to retail and foodservice.
Caplan remains board chair. Her daughters Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins are chief executive officer and chief operating officer, respectively. A granddaughter, Alex, has joined the marketing staff.
“I am honored and a bit overwhelmed with this award,” Caplan said in the release. “But I have to say that my greatest success and joy is that I get to work every day alongside my two daughters and one of my grandchildren.”
In 1979, Frieda Caplan won The Packer’s Produce Marketer of the Year award. Other honors included the Harriet Alger Award from Working Woman magazine; Los Angeles Times recognition as one of the top 12 California business persons in the 1980s — alongside Michael Eisner and Jane Fonda — and the 2012 Legacy Award from the National Association of Women Business Owners.
“While Frieda has been a longtime role model for women in produce, she stands out as a role- model for anyone in our industry,” Stenzel said in the release.
Prior lifetime achievement awards included Reggie Griffin of The Kroger Co. in 2012 and a posthumous 2007 honor to Robert Grimm of Grimmway Farms.