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Fear No Fruit

Fear No Fruit

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Fear No Fruit chronicles Frieda Caplan’s rise from being the first woman entrepreneur on the Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market in the 1960s, to transforming American cuisine by introducing over 200 exotic fruits and vegetables to U.S. supermarkets. Still an inspiration at 91, Frieda’s daughters and granddaughter carry on the business legacy.

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Transcript

- Well, I was born at the White Memorial Hospital in downtown Los Angeles. And there was a bit of controversy right in the beginning, that I didn't realize till many years later. I was always told I was born on August 8th of 1923. I went to the Los Angeles City Hall to get a copy of my birth certificate. They couldn't find it. And I said, "Well, please look around." And they found it on August 10th. I've lived in one house on Baltimore Street in Highland Park, at that time, a very middle-class community. I had parents who were very politically aware. When I was at UCLA, there was only 4,700 students. Now, I think, there's probably 70 or 80,000. And it only cost $26 a semester for everything, and we thought we were being ripped off. I was very much active in student-body government. I was a student-body officer. I started UCLA in September of 1941, and in December was when war was declared. I graduated in 1945, so I was at UCLA the whole period of time of World War II. The first job I had in the produce industry was caused, really, by the fact that I had my first child, Karen. - I was born in 1955, and she wanted a job with flexible hours so she could breastfeed me. - I called my aunt and uncle and said, "Do you know anybody on the produce market "that might need some office help, part-time, "so that I can continue breastfeeding my baby and working?" Which I needed to do. - They said, "Oh my God, Frieda, "you called on the perfect day. "Our bookkeeper just quit. "Come on down tomorrow." They didn't interview her. They didn't ask her what her grade in college was in math. It was a D. - And you have to understand, I knew nothing about produce or fruits and vegetables, other than what I ate. - [Karen] And her aunt and uncle went on vacation, and they wanted someone in the family to kind of look after things. In the old produce market, the bookkeeper was upstairs, and the selling was downstairs, and so she would come down in the market, and she just loved it. - So, as I was cashiering, I would ask each of the customers, "Can you use any mushrooms?" Mushrooms were considered a great specialty at that time. Most of them said no, but one of the chain stores responded. And he says, "Yes, I can use it for a Thanksgiving ad." When he came in the next week to place his order, it was gigantic. I was petrified, so I ran upstairs, got their telephone directory, and looked up whatever mushroom growers they had, and called down and asked how many ordered mushrooms, and "I'm sorry, we're all sold out." So, what I had done, I took my station wagon, took Karen, bundled her up. I had never been to a mushroom farm. I started helping them pack up, and I stayed there and stayed there and stayed there. And, finally, in desperation to get rid of me, they gave me mushrooms. And that's how I got into the mushroom business. We began to draw a lot of other specialty items, mangoes, which were a specialty item at that time, orchid grapefruit, all sorts of unusual things. In late October of 1961, a couple of writers from the LA Times were walking on the market, two women, actually, from the food pages, and were stunned to see a woman on the market selling. A couple months later, the owners of Southern Pacific Railway came to me and said, "Frieda, we want you "to go into business for yourself." I said, "You're kidding, not me." I said, "I know nothing about money, "and I have no experience running about business." He said, "Well, they have two doors available. "We've been watching you this last five or six years, "and we are convinced you would be very successful, "and you're selling something that is quite unusual." - Forget the coffee, Marge. It's never very good. - But Phil, I-- - I'll get some at the plant. - Well, I was never aware at that time of how unusual it was that I was a woman in business. I never had a problem with the men on the market at all. Once they got over the fact that I was a woman, and they learned they could make money with the items I was selling, I had no problems. - So my mom really was the first woman in a man's world. I remember going down to the produce market and seeing her there. It was all these crotchety old men. - That was the Mad Men era. Women didn't run their own businesses, particularly in the produce business, which was a tough trade. There'd be guys cussing, and it was not a business for a polite woman. And, the magic of Frieda was that she was a polite woman but tough enough to make it in that field, and I love her for that. - There was my mom. This is the '60s, so she was always in a dress. I can see this green dress with white stripes and high heels. You know, my mom always looked like a lady. She really used being a woman to her advantage, I think. I used to joke, you could tell my dad was coming to the office because she would fluff her hair and she'd put on her lipstick and she'd just make sure she looked fantastic for him. She never did not have that feminine touch. And I think, because she had that no obstacles, she didn't see anything. She didn't know that women didn't go down to downtown LA next to Skid Row and park their car and walk into the produce market at two o'clock in the morning. - I can only imagine how intense that was. I mean, you have to be, sort of, one of the guys. It wasn't about just being a powerful woman. It was just being powerful and smart and passionate. - She came in as the first woman and decided she was gonna have a boutique type of operation. She was going to offer a market within the market. And I think that's what drove her popularity and also the growth of her business. - And that was sort of how we were brought up, is you did what was right. Business was business. It didn't matter if you're male or female. And so, the role model she provided for us was that you could do whatever you wanted, it didn't matter, but you had to prove that you were worthy of business or relationships or trust of other people. - Well, my dad was kind of known as Mr. Frieda. And he didn't really like that too much. - I thought, at the time when I met him, that he was one of the most repulsive people I'd ever met. He had a very strong personality, an absolute tremendous orator. He could convince anybody of anything. And he ended up being the president of the International Longshoreman and Warehouseman's Union. - You know, my mom was married to the business. It was all-consuming. And my dad was very understanding about that. They're one of those couples that got married in the '50s, and, you know, they were just gonna stay married forever, no matter what. - Most moms stayed home. And my sister and I were kind of unusual because our mom was a working mom. - Mom left for work at one o'clock every morning, kissed us goodbye, and drive down the freeway, and came back about five o'clock in the evening. My dad was there. He ran his business out of the house. - I am not the maternal type. Jackie was probably around three or four months old, and I was already going to work. And so Sundays were the one time we had a chance to sleep in. So, one early Sunday, Karen was between two and a half and three. She didn't want to wake us up, and the baby was in her room in the crib and was hungry. So Karen went downstairs, and she took a top of the bottle, ran hot water into the top, stuck the bottle in and heated it, and then took the bottle up to the three-month-old baby and fed her. That was a sign of Karen early on. - I remember, when I was in first grade, our teacher was holding up these pictures of different people doing things, and she shows a picture of a produce manager. And, of course, I raised my hand, like, "My mom's in produce!" so, we took a field trip down to the LA Produce Market, and that was really my first experience, I was like six years old, of seeing what she did. That's when I learned about, we were importing kiwifruit at that time, and we got samples of kiwifruit, we got, you know, pineapple, but I didn't know that was special. - You know, my mom is fearless, always has been. So one of my first memories of going down to the produce market, my mom had this giant sign. And the sign said, "The greatest hurdle "specialty items have to surmount "is the buyer, not the consumer." And people would come by and say, "Frieda, you're insulting your customers." And she'd say, "But that came from a customer." - Welcome to Madeleine Cooks. I'm Madeleine Kamman, and you see me here standing today with a great big bowl of what was used to be known Chinese gooseberries. If I cut it open, you're immediately going to recognize a good old, by now, good old-- - Kiwifruit. - Tell me about how that came about. How did you bring the kiwi in? - All because of one shopper who had been to New Zealand, who went to a Safeway store, and said, "I want some Chinese gooseberries." Safeway come to Frieda's Finest and said, "Find us Chinese gooseberries." So I spent six months searching. I had no idea what I was looking for. I didn't know what it even looked like. And then one day, about six months later, a new broker on the street came walking down the market, and he looked up and saw the name on our door, which at that time was Produce Specialties. - And says, "I have these Chinese gooseberries. "Does anyone want them?" Of course, my mom, open-minded, "I have a customer. "Bring 'em all in." - It took us four months to sell the first 240 flats of kiwifruit. A custom broker in San Francisco got ahold of me and says, "Frieda, you're never gonna "be able to sell something called Chinese gooseberries. "It's just not attractive." - And it was because it's so ugly-looking. It's, you know, kind of brown and fuzzy on the outside, but inside, beautiful green. If you looked at it, no one really wanted to buy it 'cause it didn't look pretty. - "Since it's from New Zealand, "and it looks just like the kiwi bird, "why don't you suggest to the growers in New Zealand "that they rename it kiwifruit." - [Narrator] In California, it seems like people will eat just about anything. And you're afraid to try a kiwifruit? - Frieda was definitely a pioneer in crossing the gender barriers. Traveling, you know, across the sea to introduce what they originally called the gooseberry, and she affectionately called it a kiwi. And, you know, I think that really stuck with people, and it was when people were really, it was the Jet Age. We were getting ready to go to the Moon. People were looking for that next thing. People were starting to explore. Our diet was changing, and, you know, Frieda played a big part in bringing products that we otherwise wouldn't have seen in America on our tables. - It began a ground swell of interest by all sorts of people, and then the press picked up on it. So it was a news story right from the beginning. And because we were the ones handling it, somehow food editors started calling me, The Queen of Kiwi. - My work as a writer focuses on five different characteristics of produce, the variety, the growing area, the horticultural practices, ripeness at harvest, and post-harvest treatment, and how those combine to influence what the consumer experiences. Frieda, like me, has been interested in the confluence of commerce and fruticulture, and so she's a kindred soul. - She brought expertise you couldn't get anyplace else. You could pick up the phone, you'd call Frieda anytime, and say, "Frieda, I need to know more about mangoes. "I need to know more about papayas." And she would have something to you, if not over the phone, within the next couple of hours. Mangoes, papayas, Asian pears, things like that would not be where they are today if it wasn't for Frieda and her organization. - There's always gonna be new ingredients. There's always gonna be better-tasting ingredients. The whole idea is that balance, you know, and Frieda was always a big part of that balance, which is, how do you continue the march toward uniqueness and fantastic flavor and sustainability so that these farmers can continue to be farmers, it doesn't have to be some giant machine that grows everything? - To have someone, I think, so visionary who really saw a place to be able to bring in products that we as chefs would probably never have been able to experience. - When she's discovering things like kiwi and jicama and, you know, rambutan or dragon fruit, she gets so excited about that. She doesn't see, you know, that Americans are never gonna buy that fruit. - It has to have taste, it has to have food value, and it has to have shelf life. These are about three requirements for us to get involved. And then, nowadays, it has to have the volume behind it. - Yeah, I treat everything historically. I like to see how those five characteristics that I was discussing, where, say, 100 or 200 years ago, 200 years ago, 100 years ago, 50 years ago, 20 years ago, how they are now and where they're going in the future. Look at this. This looks like a fruit that was designed by Disney. But, it's native to Southeast Asia. It's called the mangosteen. It's not a Jewish mango. It's a fruit that used to be very greatly sought after. It was totally unavailable in the United States. Now, let's taste one of these. I can't resist. Oh my God, this is just like the peach of the Tropics. I mean, there's nothing like it. Frieda was 40 years ahead of her time in bringing these in. And she was the only one that had them for half a century or more. There are some kinds that really are delicious, and finding which are the ones that combine good looks and good taste, that's the key. I've seen fruits that sent my then 12-year-old niece screaming from the room, seriously. - Remember, back in the day, all of our selling was by telephone. So we had to describe a Buddha's hand, a horned melon, a tamarillo, an elephant garlic. And the buyers, I swear, they had a list, a script. "I don't like that. "I don't like purple. "It'll never sell. "I don't have a place to put it. "Who's gonna pay that kind of money?" We had to flip it and create demand on the other side. - ABC TV wanted to do a weekly segment, and they went around the market asking everybody there, "Would you be interested?" And they all said, "Go see Frieda." That's how I came on the Channel 7 Eyewitness News once a week for 90 seconds live on the market. All these people, if they had anything unusual, there was one place to go, and that was, at that time, Produce Specialties Incorporated, Frieda's. - We've got the golden starting. We've got the blueberries, got the blackberries, the raspberries. These are gaviotas. We tasted the three different kinds. These ones are sensational. You can use these for the berries. We can also make a cobbler. California Cuisine was the label that the press gave us. In California, I think people are much more susceptible to new ideas. They were very eager, almost like pioneers, to try anything, and that they were just fascinated with the new ingredients that we would bring in. At the late '70s and early '80s was sort of this area where, because this town, LA, in particular, was so receptive to reinventing yourselves, California was that way, Hollywood was that way, so we had a great group of young Hollywood that was coming in. They all lived in the area. As California is, it's an open, 12-month-a-year beautiful place to be. They wanted to go. They were health-conscious. Remember, there were no gyms in those days. Only the weird people jogged. - When I first moved to France when I was 19, I felt like I was home. Like, finally, I was among people who cared about food as much as I did. They thought about lunch after they finished breakfast, and they thought about dinner as soon as they finished lunch. And that was the first time I was around a massive amount of people who cared about food so deeply. And here in the United States, that's been happening over the past 25 years. People have started to really care about food. - Ingredients that are now on menus that seem so commonplace, back then, they just weren't. You know, shiitake mushrooms, Enoki mushrooms, spaghetti squash. - Zucchinis and the baby vegetables, the turnips, you know, things like that. The root vegetables that she really was able to get off and running, because they were very complicated to grow, and they were new. - We'd never seen jicama. I mean, back in, you know, the early '80s, we just hadn't seen jicama. So, you know, that's an ingredient that Frieda brought into this country that now is a huge part of our kitchen. Habanero chilies, you know, it's one of the key elements in our hot salsa here. On our Indian vegetarian plates, we used to do kiwi as one of the salsas. It was because it was fresh and unusual, and fabulous color, and looked gorgeous. - I made the first kiwi sorbet from her kiwis. The only other green ice cream or gelato was pistachio. Well, we were taking these berries, and we were making strawberry and blueberry and boysenberry, either the sorbettos or the sorbets or the ice creams. And she brought the kiwis. I said, "Oh my God, they're here. "This is fantastic." - I would find things that Frieda was bringing in that I'd never seen before. And, you know, that takes a lot of guts and a lot of vision and an amazing kind of tenacity to do that. So, her influence in the cuisine of the United States has been huge. - Everyone was so close, 'cause we were like the band of brothers, you know what I mean? This was a revolution that was occurring, and it was a very small world. Julia was very fond of Frieda, of course, because she was, again, doing our sourcing and getting the quality of these ingredients to the general population. I mean, Julia was just, that's what she was like. Her whole idea was to just spread the word. You know, Mastering the Art of French Cooking was, the whole idea is to, "You should be "eating better in your own home." - I sort of see Frieda and Julia being sort of in that same category. Frieda was in the produce world. Julia, in that same way as Frieda, sort of got into a man's world, became respected as someone who came out of left field, in a way. So, between produce and cooking, I think, you know, the two of them ended up changing the view of women in the field. - You know, and so, with those recipes and with Frieda's ingredients, it was rock 'n' roll time. - My great pleasure to be here tonight on behalf of the mayor of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, to congratulate Frieda and her two wonderful daughters on 25 years of excellence in building not only a fine business establishment, but really an institution here in Los Angeles. And how did they do it? They did it through creativity, innovation, and when others would not reach out and take on some of the exotic fruits and other things, they had the guts to step forward and do it in a true LA spirit. - It's my privilege, my honor, and truly a real thrill to present the President of Frieda's Finest, Produce Specialties Incorporated, my older daughter, Karen Caplan. The thing that is most important is the joy that I have working with Karen and Jackie, primarily because neither my late husband and I ever encouraged the girls to go into our businesses. - So I joined the company in 1977, and I went to my mom in 1986, and I said, "Mom, you know, I'm Vice President," because both my sister and I were Vice President, "and I'm really doing the job of President, "so I think you and Dad should "make me President of the company." - My mom had been actually advised against it. All of her peers who owned companies said, "It's such a mistake to turn your "business over to your daughters. "This is your business." But my mom wisely saw that she could only take the company so far. - My strength is marketing, and today, to this day, that is my strength. Running a business is not my strength. I felt very inadequate. I knew I couldn't stand to fire people. - She goes, "I was thinking, it's, you know, June." She said, "Next April will be our 25th anniversary. "I was thinking that would be a perfect time "to announce that you're President." And I said, "Oh, I was thinking Tuesday." - It was no longer that Frieda would be at the PMA or at the United at a panel. It would always be Karen would be taking that role. And she looked at me as a mentor, and I felt really good about that because her mom was a mentor to me. You know, people look at her and say, "Wow, what a great role model for women." That's not true. She's a great role model for women and men. - The proof in the pudding is, after Karen became president in 1986, we practically doubled our volume within five years. It is totally remarkable to see these two girls working together. Karen is totally right-brain, Jackie is totally left-brain, and together, they make a perfect match. - You know, we grew up. We were three years apart, so I always say we're on different playgrounds. You know, I went off to junior high. She was in elementary school. When I went off to college, she was still in high school. So we were, yeah, we were okay. We weren't really that close. And I worked for my mom right after college. And I like to say Jackie invaded my sandbox, my little, private sandbox of me working with Mom. - The first couple months were really challenging for the two of us. We would have our little moments. - You know, she's my little sister, and, just like moms are annoying, little sisters can be annoying. And my mom sat us down and said. - That business is business and personal is personal. - We are complete opposites. I'm the outgoing, vision-oriented, sales and marketing crazy person. They call me a freak of nature, in a good way. - I'm much more on the execution side, so we joke that her job is to dream up all the fun stuff and my job is to figure out how we make it happen. - We have the... That pineapple from Nicaragua. I want to be able to put together a sheet, almost like a fact sheet, but this is a completely new product, 'cause I want to take that into Safeway to see if this is the kind of thing they would have an interest in. Dorian, call Karen on 1-6-4. Dorian, call Karen on 1-6-4. I want it to look even rougher than a fact sheet, because it's a new product. - She's the boss, and there has to be one decision-maker. And I think that's ultimately why we've been successful. I don't know if you were ever in with Aldo's the RACI model, responsible, accountable, consulting, and inform. It's an acronym, R-A-C-I, and so there's certain people that need to be informed but not consulted, right? People that need to be consulted, and then there's the people that are responsible and accountable. There's some blurred lines on the roles and responsibilities, especially in supply team. - You know, it's amazing to... Come to work every day and my mom is here and my sister, who's my business partner and my best friend, is here. Our industry is made up of a lot of family businesses, and Jackie and I are freaks. But we had a consultant once look at our personalities and say, "Oh my God, you guys are perfect partners." We discovered that as we worked together. - I found your first business card last night, from Giumarra. - [Freida] I had a business card then? - Yeah, it was crazy. I'll have to show you. It said, "Frieda Caplan, Mushrooms and Specialties." - You're kidding. - And it was Giumarra. - [Freida] I never remember having a business card. - Yeah, it was, well, it was just crazy, and it was blue print. It was so funny, so I definitely-- - So that was before we started Frieda's. - [Alex] Yeah, it had to have been. - Before I went into business for myself. Oh my goodness. - Yeah. - You must have a treasure trove up there. I just threw everything into the drawer. I don't know. - I was putting something away, and I found, like, a stack of your date books. It was crazy and awesome. - Did it reveal anything interesting? - It was cool to see that you put clippings of people in your date book. Like if you went to an event, you put the clipping of the event in the date book and wrote a note about who you met and what you did and everything. It was neat. - Yeah, well, it's gonna break my heart when you move out of here, kiddo. - [Alex] I know. - It's just the joy of daily living with somebody so bright but who also has a life of her own. - People, I think they think that there's, they have this misconception that I'm living here to help my grandma, and, gratefully, I'm not. But it's just fun. I mean, she lets me have my freedom, but at the same time, we get to bond more than maybe with some of the other grandchildren who are still in school. My grandmother's house has been the same house that she's lived in since 1958, when my mother was little. And, you know, everyone's grandma's house has the smell of Grandma. And my sister will come home from college and she'll hug me. She's like, "You smell like Grandma's house." I was like, "What does that even mean? "Is that a bad smell? "Is it just the smell?" So it's funny 'cause I live at my grandma's house. I have that Grandma's house scent on me. I had a cable guy come over once to fix my TV, and he said, "This is the room that time has forgotten." When I moved in here, I found letters my mom and my aunt wrote to her. My mom wrote letters every week to my mom and my grandpa when she was in college, all these little things that no one else in our family has really seen. It's like a museum, really, in here. It's really cool. I'll miss it for sure, but it's also nice, because I know there's not cobwebs forming in some corner of my house when I move out, so it does have that taste to it. - So when Karen and I came into the business, my mom was thrilled. It was never in her plan, and, frankly, it wasn't in either Karen or my plan. - She never put any pressure on Jackie or me to join or not join the business. I kind of adopted that with my kids. - I was always influenced by great women and had great role models in my life, and I never thought I couldn't achieve something. So it was obviously empowering, too. I mean, I don't think it's crazy for women to be in a powerful position. I work with you and Mom and Jackie every day. I mean, I love my job, and I love my team at work, and Jackie kind of mentors me. I don't know if you knew that, so-- - [Freida] No, I didn't. - She really helped me, whether I had an issue with something or I had a question or-- - [Freida] You're kidding. I never knew that. - Yeah, so I talked to Don at the US Potato Board, and I wanted to find out more information about the sampling demonstrations with them. He has some really good ideas for how to sample the Butter Baby potatoes that haven't been done before. The idea is encouraging the consumer to cook the whole bag of potatoes, and whatever you have left over, you save for a snack for the next day and then use in place of pasta. Since the potatoes do have more nutritional value, he sees that we're a marketing force to be reckoned with and we go full-force with all of our products. It's fun being the third generation. It's said that the third generation's supposed to mess everything up. - This looks great. - Well, hopefully it tastes good. And if it doesn't, don't tell me. Just lie. - Okay, lie a little bit? - But I'm the only one that puts real pressure on myself. - Are we gonna have time to finish the whole thing before we leave for work? - Yeah, we'll have time. You're the head person, so if we're late, it's okay. - [Freida] It's okay? - Mm-hmm. My friend told me, while I was in Vegas, to bet on Chrome, and I didn't do it-- - I did it because he had a purple shirt. That's why I picked it. I won 36 bucks, and I plowed it back, and we all put in money. - So do you have a lot to do at work today? - [Freida] No, I cleaned up everything yesterday, so all I'll have is what is growing on today. - [Alex] Just filing? - I just feel that I'm totally energized. I go to work every day. At least it's Monday through Friday now, no longer Saturdays and Sundays. I'm energized by my daughters and my granddaughters. I just don't feel age. I never have. Is Mark out to lunch? - Yeah, Mark's not here right now. - Oh. - What's up? Do you need anything? - [Freida] No, I wanted a change of pace. - Oh, going the back route? - [Freida] Yeah, going the back route. - How's your day going? - Good. - Good. - When I joined her in the business, my mom checked every single invoice every day before it loaded. And I said to my mom, "To grow the business, "we're gonna have to stop looking at the invoices." But she loves those invoices, so at age 90, what do you think my mom does now? My mom, on her own, has decided she's gonna do the filing of the invoices. And sometimes people come in our office and they're thinking, "God, Jackie and Karen are really mean. "They make their mom do the filing." Oh, no. - When people are like, "Why doesn't she retire "and travel or stay at home and relax?" it's like, she doesn't want to do that. She wants to go to work. She goes to work like someone is keeping time on her. Her energy's really inspiring. - Is she 90? - [Interviewer] She's 90, turning 91 this year. - You know, I think you stay connected and engaged, and, you know, she hasn't let technology get in her way. She writes emails to me back and forth. - Unbelievable, wow, you got to take the principles of what she does, which is get up, go to work, keep doing it, keep pushing, be the leader, be the charismatic individual that people want to say, "Yes, I believe in her. "We can continue this." - She's up on the latest news, no matter what it is. It's not just necessarily about produce. She knows politically what's going on. She knows environmentally what's going on. - I've always been an activist, Women against Gun Violence, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood. In order to participate in government and in the world, you have to be knowledgeable. You have to be aware. And you have to realize there's more than one side to a situation. You have to understand both sides and what motivates people. - [Alex] How you doing, Grandma? - Hi, sweetie. - Hi. - Hello. - Hi, there. Hi, Hazel. Hi, Terri. - She has the most amazing memory. If a customer's met her before, she can always tell them where she met them. - She never forgets your birthday. She never forgets to send you a Christmas card. - [Karen] So I love to bring the customer in and meet my mom, and then we walk off and I whisper. - Anybody for tea? - "By the way, she's 90." And they're like, "Oh my God, you're kidding." She is so on her game. - [Alex] She's so sharp mentally. Her health is perfect. I mean, she really has no health problems. - [Freida] You didn't answer your phone. - She has a bad ankle, but it's a 90-year-old ankle. Like, what are you gonna do? - [Phone] Please say a command. - Call Georgia Case. - [Phone] Calling Georgia Case. - [Freida] Hello? Yeah. - [Georgia] Frieda? - Hold on a minute, Georgia. Go ahead, what, dear? - Well, you know, I find out, my mom is 93, and the busier she is, the better she feels. But I do think that often we ignore the vitality of some of our seniors, and we believe, at a certain age, you go out to pasture. For years, people thought long life was important. But, I think, in today's age, you're saying long life is not important if you have no quality of life. - A young lady who was about 32 looked at me and she said, "Frieda, how does it feel to be old?" And I looked at her and I said, "Well, I've never figured I was beyond 18. "I still feel the same way." Jewel Tea in Chicago bought both our ginger and our sunchokes. And about two months after they made their first purchase, we got a panic call. "Frieda, our produce managers and our customers "can't tell the difference between sunchokes and ginger. "They look so much alike." The answer to the question is, I developed the very first consumer package in the United States in the produce industry, a one-pound package of sunchokes. And so to tell people what to do with it, we made a little label for it, and we had space on the label. And I said, "Well, let's put something on the backside." So I had 'em put, "Dear Customer, "if you want more recipes or information "about this item, please contact us." We were flooded with letters. You notice on every one of the packages, like water chestnuts, there's a recipe header. Inside, there's recipes in it, telling people how to use it. - [Man] I see. - And this is the key to moving all these unusual fruits-- - And where do you get all of these recipes from? - Well, one of the main sources has been my daughter Karen. - Remember, she doesn't cook. Well, she didn't think about the impact of that, of, "Okay, they're gonna write for recipes, "and they're really gonna write to us." - At that time, we were getting as many as four to 800 a week. And we addressed every single one of them. Now, we didn't have emails or, everything was by typing. But what it did, it stunned the produce industry, because outside of Sunkist stamping the word, Sunkist, on an orange, there had never been any labeling or packaging in our industry. What we attempt to do is label all of our items telling the consumer how to use it. And that's how we introduced spaghetti squash. Most of them looked at that in the beginning and said, "Well, gee, that looks like a melon." Or like on the passion fruit here, "Ripe when wrinkled." 'Cause we developed an open door, whether it was on the items themselves, whether it was for packaging, or whether it was for transportation. For instance, we were the very first people that shipped produce in air containers. - We feel that if we can educate people on why they should try unusual things, that's marketing. - We realized that just having a product, having a good product, having a product with food value, having a product that looked interesting, was not enough. And this is where we learned to become marketers first and wholesalers and distributors second. - Now, no one in the produce business had a 100% consumer guarantee until Frieda's did. And that was really scary. - Frieda introduced marketing to the produce industry. it was strictly, in her day, a commodity, buy-sell type of operation. You know, "Who's got it, and who's got "the best price, and what looks the best? "Let's add some sizzle to it. "Let's tell the story. "Let's talk to the consumer. "Let's get feedback. "Oh my goodness, get feedback from consumers on what, "they're thinking of our product and how can we improve it?" - When I worked for Frieda, she was a tough trader. She was really a tough trader, and I mean tough on price and everything. And, at that time, we probably built up our reputation on carrying the exotics and the big variety more so than any other supermarket. She would talk me into stocking product that I would have never thought of stocking. And she would include into the boxes some recipe pads, information sheets, things that nobody else was doing. - We were the very first people to market the country of origin. When people were fighting and didn't want it, we used that as a marketing tool. We put New Zealand. We put Israel. We put Mexico. We put Belgium. We put the names of the country. That became a marketing tool to us. - I remember making a phone call to Frieda one afternoon and saying, "Frieda, I need your help." And she says, "What do you need?" I said, "I need for you to go to the melon growers. "Have them put the--" - Stickers saying the name of the melon, not the name of the company. - She's like, "Dick, I don't sell melons." he's like, "I don't care. "Just put a label on it. "People need to know." - "Frieda, that's not the point. "You're so influential with growers, "you'll be able to convince them "'cause I haven't been able to." - If you just rejoined us, welcome back to today's business and a visit with a Horatio, or shall we call her a Harriet, Alger figure. She is Frieda Caplan of Los Angeles, who has just been named the first woman Entrepreneur of the Year by Working Woman magazine. - One of the greatest amount of fun that we get with our fruit is when a lot of TV shows call us. Matter of fact, for a period of time, we were the suppliers for Star Trek. And one of the first things they used was the kiwano, the African horned melon, that you see here. - That is odd-looking. - And, to most people, it looks like either a paperweight or an exotic fish. - Or a hand grenade. - A hand grenade with spikes already built in. And, man alive, did that increase sales. People wanted to know what it was. And of course, it spread the word about Frieda's as a resource. So the color purple became identified with me, and even the printers, labels and things like that for a while had a Frieda purple on their color palette. - Everything became purple. She painted the walls purple. She painted the forklifts purple. To this day, we still sign everything with a purple pen. Actually, I had one guy that worked for us once. We were training him. We told him, "Oh, and by the way, "you have to sign all your letters with a purple pen," which is really not a big deal. And he quit three months later. He said, you know, we were taking away his creativity, and probably challenging his manhood. - Everybody knew, if you found something weird or you found something exotic, and, oh my God, if it was purple, that was like the double winner. - You're talking about John Q. Public in the middle of the Midwest who hasn't seen a lot of, maybe not even seen oceans. There's a lot of things that are gonna be scary. It's like today with the fingerling potatoes, "What happened to my big, fat potato?" Or, you know, an ugly fruit that's truly ugly or something that looks nice and soft on the outside, when you cut it in the middle, it's a blood orange. Those are the types of things that her name on that product, that purple color tells people, hey, this is something that's fun. It's unique. Give it a try. - In 1990, the LA Times came out a front-page, January 1st story with the 12 people in Southern California that so affected the nation. It was Jane Fonda, Michael, the one that had Disney, Mike Eisner, people like that and me. I couldn't believe it. I didn't even know anybody at the time 'cause I had no idea that we had that kind of reputation. And although I've received many honors over the years, nothing floored me quite as much as that. - Cherimoyas, we got confirmation for delivery tomorrow, 80 cases due in. And I do need help moving cherry rhubarb. We have 97 cases on hand, but that kind of died out, so if you guys can help push that. - Everything we have in-house now is out of New Zealand. The Frieda-three pricing reflects what it would cost. If you go below some of those prices, you're gonna end up losing money. Artichokes out of Underwood, we're into single digits. Remember that once those are gone, we have to cover off the street. We're trying to tie up the loose ends on the first Brazilian air-freight ginger. I think it'll be here on Friday, but that's all dependent upon AG, FDA, USDA. And that's air-freight. We're looking for different labels, different countries of origin or different shipping points. And then, if I see something I like, we'll talk to that vendor and see what his price is. - I've been Frieda's going on nine years now. I started when I was 18 in the warehouse. I've been in position for about a year now in buying. We come out here to look for product, labels, country of origins. You know, I come out here once a week, so I do know these guys pretty well. - [Steve] The market runs here six days a week. It's always been an early market. It's different than New York City. Some guys get here about one o'clock, one o'clock to midnight. Most of them are closed up by 10:00 or 11:00. - [Ruben] They're our eyes out on the market. They really know what's going on. We have our people out here that we know to go to for specific items. - Yeah, this is USA, though. - Okay, and some USA. - So that's finishing. - Yeah, Washington. - So it's all air-freight out of Peru, then? - All this product comes from different parts of the world. I mean, for example, gold kiwi that's starting over there comes out of New Zealand, out of Chile. A lot of stone fruit comes out of Chile. We do get some specialty Asian items out of Thailand, Vietnam, just from all over the world. We do do a lot of stuff out here in Central California, Mexico. It's frenetic. It's chaotic. Pallet jacks behind you, people talking all around. What's up, man? How are we doing? - Doing good, and yourself? - Fresnos, Fresnos. - Ah, they're coming in. - Coming in? - Yeah. - So did they make it on our truck this morning? - Yeah. - Okay. - In two-pounders. Mark is really short, but I did cover you for-- - Okay. Because of the proximity to the growing region, we do get a lot of stuff, but since we are close to the ports and the airport, a lot of import stuff does come in, but all that heads here. I mean, they are close to everything. They're in the middle of everything. That Guatemala stuff looks good. - Very nice, it's beautiful, but the price difference-- - I know. - Per pound is huge. - It's ridiculous. Did our order get filled today? - Yeah. - All the jicama? - Good to go. - Good, okay. Nice seeing you, man. - All right, buddy. - Thank you. - Take care, man. - [Steve] So he did plant some, after all, then? - He planted some. The first two fields got messed up for some reason or another. He says now he has to wait. - 95-degree heat doesn't help that. Thank you. Well, yeah, but that's what he's got, so I'm gonna take 'em. Yeah, okay, thank you. - I'm looking for 10 cases of granny, big box, 10 galas, big box. 10 fujis, and then 10 of the reds, 10-pounders. All big boxes, 24? - Yeah. - What quantity of mangosteen? - Looking at a hundred. - [Ruben] A hundred on mangosteen? - [Steve] You'll start seeing some more cash customers after the sun comes up, which means smaller, independent stores, but most of the bigger buyers are done already. A lot of the food-service guys start very early in the morning. They're hoping their orders are already back at the warehouse. The rest of the day is monitoring what's getting delivered at the warehouse, checking on quality, checking on inventory, covering new sales that the salespeople are putting in right now, as we speak, and getting prepared for the next day and the day after that. - Moving off the produce market, it was not a move that most people made 'cause they thought that's where business happened. And I think that leapfrog of letting go and trying to grow your business, that was a real big deal for our company. But our business was changing. We weren't really dependent on being on the market to really sell our product, so that really opened the doors. We were able to develop our model of business, and not be encumbered by being just in one spot. They're packing product, checking it for quality. They may be reconditioning it, or they're repackaging it for retail. This ginger happens to be from Hawaii, but we bring it in from Hawaii, Brazil, Costa Rica, China. It depends on where the best quality is and also seasonality. We've shipped most of our product out of this place, but we do about 15% directly from the grower to our client. Our growers have to follow certain compliance themselves. Any time product goes from the field, it has to be kept refrigerated. If they do any processing, they have to follow those rules. So we have here what's called a refractometer. And the term they use for measuring sugar is called brix, B-R-I-X. And it shows them what the percentage of sugar is. So when you're talking about certain fruits, there is a minimum acceptable-sugar level, and that will tell you eventually how sweet it is. So, there are certain specs for different products, that they have to meet a minimum size. So rather than us getting a ruler out, they actually use these sizing wheels to make sure that the fruit fits that size. And the penetrometer, you actually put it on the fruit, and it measures the pressure. So when fruit is really soft, it'll go right through. It'll measure probably zero. That tells us how firm the fruit is. So, the blue room is our coldest room. It's where we have iced product, where the product is around 34 to 36 degrees, high humidity. We have about 600 different items at any given time of the year. And between all the different ways it packs, we probably have three to 4,000, what we call SKUs, or stock-keeping units. Most of the product leaves our facility within about three days of coming in, on the perishable product. The red room, as it implies, is a warmer room. That's where we keep the product that does not have to be refrigerated at a really low temperature, but that's around 50 to 55 degrees. And these rooms will vary, depending on the time of year, what kind of products are in here. You'll also see that we have empty boxes here, pallets of boxes. What you find is, a full cooler is easier to cool than an empty cooler. When we get to the farther side, there's the green room, which is tropical. so that's around 45 to 48 degrees. Cherimoya in season, rambutan, lychee, things that are not only grown here domestically, but things that are imported. And because of agricultural restrictions that are based usually on disease or pests, it takes a while for the United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, they approve the products to come into the United States. So there's a whole inspection process that happens when product comes in. They're testing it not only for pesticides but also disease, pests, because they know if that gets brought into the United States, it could basically wipe out a whole agricultural industry here. You'll notice these white hanging pads, and what those are, are they're called ethylene eaters. And what it does is, fruit naturally gives off a lot of ethylene, and ethylenes ripen. So you might have heard people say, if you want to ripen your avocados, put 'em in a brown bag with a banana. It's 'cause the bananas give off ethylene. All of the activity, besides sales, all happens here. So they start around 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and they go until as late as, on a really busy week, they may be here as late as 5:00 or six o'clock at night. But, for the most part, we're done by 3:00 in the afternoon. - The market in Santa Monica started in 1981. That has grown to over 200 vendors, and it's incredible. It's a way for people to really stay in touch with the food sources. - And it's on the west side. It was the template that made the rule. See, people go down there. They don't know that there's rules. You know, in the old days, people go downstairs to the wholesale department, they buy the stuff, they bring it out there they'd look like Farmer John, you know? And they'd sell stuff that somebody else grew. Today, it's extremely regulated, and I'm not talking about organic or nonorganic. I'm talking about, just to get into those markets, you have to really grow the product. - This has become not only a market for gourmets. It's a market for bargain shoppers, but it's also a source for purveyors, or distributors to restaurants, and a place where the elite meet and greet in the produce world. People come to suss out what's new and to talk to people like me and to chefs and farmers about it. Once you're hooked on how good produce can be, if you know who to buy from at the Santa Monica Farmers Market, you can never settle for anything else. Hey, look who's here, Frieda the Finest! I'm so glad to see you. - I just couldn't-- - it's always a pleasure. - I feel like it's an art project, like it's a produce art project because it allows these growers to bring to market things that 20 years ago, 25 years ago, weren't of interest to people. And now, a lot of growers will take some of the items that they're growing, that have the vision to do something on a grander commercial scale, but they want to see if it has legs. Is this an item that's gonna have traction? And we're so much more interested in food now than we used to be. You know, a lot of us ate asparagus out of a can. - Oh my God, I can't forget how long ago, on the donut peach, my God. - At least 20 years ago. - That's right. and now they call it a flying-saucer peach. - Oh, or the Saturn. - Or the Saturn. - Saturn was the original one bred by Rutgers. And that was the first of the line of these low-acid, white-flesh peaches, relatively tender, that were flat. That's a kind of peach that originated in China, as you know, centuries ago, and it was preferred by Chinese emperors because they could eat it without getting their beards wet, as Anthony likes to say. - David Karp is brilliant. He's quirky. When they call him the Fruit Detective, if we want to know anything unusual, anything develop, he is a magnificent source. He's one of the most imaginative food writers that I've ever known, and he goes deep. He goes into the country. He found a lot of farmers that were growing things that we had been looking for that weren't aware of, that were contra-seasonable, and we have adapted a lot and gotten a lot of resources out of it. - So these are blueberries. - Look at how gorgeous. - I have to take a picture of that. - The Queen of Specialty Produce. Ever seen anything like that? - [Freida] I've never seen anything like that. - [David] It's pink lemonade. - Okay, so you know that you just eat it like, run your teeth along it like that. That comes right off, mm. - Yes. - Oh, that's-- - So good. - They're the most innovative berry growers on the Central Coast. - The advent of farmers markets is real. And you can go there once a week, and you can load up on your vegetables and your fruits, and it's good. And it is a competition to the supermarkets, but it's a good competition. It adds more places people can buy good, fresh products. And in many of these farmers markets, it's organic. Not all of it, but a lot of it's organic, too. It just makes it very, very accessible to the average consumer. - Now, do you come down here every week yourself? - [Al] Well, we have three, yeah, what we-- - No, I'm talking about you. - Myself, oh, yeah, I'm here every-- - Good for you. - Yeah, well, I just love the people. I love the community. I love the weather. - [Freida] So how far are you from here? - We're five hours. - [Freida] Oh, that's not bad. - That's not bad, and it's a nice-- - It's so pretty up there. - Straight drive, I-5, driving through all that beautiful farmland, it's inspiring. - I think, you know, the farmers market is more than just being down there and knowing who your farmer is. It's also being part of a community. And most of the farmers markets I go to, it's more of a gathering of people. It's a gathering. It's a weekly event where people are there. They get a feeling of supporting the local economy. It's knowing that they're able to pick up that fruit. It's not pre-packaged, a lot of it, you can taste it, that we lost in the grocery store. - Are you having any water problems? - Not yet, but we've heard rumors. We've heard sort of disturbing rumors that they're gonna curtail our water. - That's what I heard. Marty said that. He said that-- - What is your major source of water? - Our water comes from the California San Joaquin River Delta. - [Freida] So you don't have any wells? - No wells, it's all snowmelt. - What do you think? - This reminds me of when I was a kid. - That's what apricots used to taste like, right? And yet it's got the post-harvest legs, that it can be sold commercially. It's bred by Craig Ledbetter of the USDA. - You notice I have my walking encyclopedia with me. - Oh, yeah, it's always good to have David Karp on board, isn't it? - Truman Kennedy has things that nobody else has. Were you talking to him? - We were talking about the Indian peach. - He's got those. He also had the rarest thing that I've ever seen in California, which is a true red apricot. That was actually brought in from Russia in a violin case or something like that, if you know what I mean? - She is like a rock star. I've been there with her twice, and I felt like I was with the Mick Jagger of the produce world. I am not kidding you. It was amazing. - I'll be darned. Hi! - Nice to see you. - I heard so much about you. - [Freida] Thank you so much. - The sunchokes. - [Freida] Oh? - This is Barbara, the proprietor of. She's got my favorite farm in the whole world. - And you're half the reason we're daring enough to try and do the weird things we do, is, we figure, somebody will eventually catch on. - Oh my gosh, chef's must go absolutely crazy with this. - [Woman in Vest] They're starting to, yeah. - The stock should be from a sugar snap pea. - [Woman in Vest] I think so, it could be. - [Mary] It is. - So you're selling it as a sprout garnish? - Uh-huh. - And there's two different ways of come in. One comes with a white flower, and one comes with a purple flower, and they look entirely different. - Looks like something chefs will go crazy for. - Yes. - Oh, absolutely. That's how it came about. - So, I'm glad it worked out. - Like a micro-green that actually has some flavor. - I know. - The farmers market just brings it even closer for not only the public but for chefs to be able to walk over there, explore new ingredients, be inspired by farmers, be inspired by the product. Because that's what gives us inspiration. - Did you see Wolfgang around here? - [David] I saw him last week. I haven't seen him so far. - Somebody said he was here today. - Oh, he's usually here. - He's here, but he usually, I think he leaves by now. - [Freida] Oh, dear, I haven't seen him for so many years. - What is it? - Oh my goodness. This is fabulous. What is it? - It's a plumcot. - Oh, it's so delicious. - So, it's a combination. It's one of Floyd Zaiger's very first inventions. - Can I have another one? - You sure? We might have to charge you for the third one. - Okay, what kind of production do you have on this? - Limited because they're a nasty fruit to grow. They like to fall on the ground. - We have to ask. The first thing I've seen today that we need to get, even if it's limited. - I think there's a big expectation on having a strawberry 12 months out of the year. And seasonality has become almost a thing of the past in conventional supermarkets. But when you get to specialty supermarkets, or you get to farmers market, you get to see the seasonality, and that's what I love about farmers markets. - I had a great personal concern to make sure that the farmers we represented had a good return. After all, I was handling a lot of small items, and if they couldn't make a decent return, they would stop producing whatever they had. - [Mary] What do you think's gonna happen next year with the reds? - Well, I want a deep-red color because when you cook it, it keeps that color. I also want a nice, big artichoke 'cause we want big artichokes. We also want a good-tasting artichoke. We want the three things, color, looks, and taste, and size, four things. We had to have all four for American taste. And if we didn't do that, it wouldn't sell. - It's not just this transaction part. They have product to sell. We buy it. It's really to get to know our growers, to spend time with them, and so we go out and see their farms. These growers, you have to understand, these are their children. This is their life. When you go out to see a grower, what you do is, you kind of, it's called kickin' the dirt, 'cause that's what they do. They love to get their hands dirty, and so we do, too. - That's my favorite thing. There's a connection. When you're in the field, and you're talking to the grower, and you meet their family, and you see where they started, and you see the product, and you see the hard work and the love that goes into growing the products, it gives you a lot more compelling reason to work even harder for them. - It's not a mainstream product. Like, every store wouldn't have a pile of red artichokes. - That's what we would like. - We would love that, and it's a great artichoke. However, it takes some marketing skill to get the greens replaced with the reds, or vice versa. But that's what Frieda comes in, is because they can market these to people who understand the variety, just not a different type of artichoke, a different quality of artichoke. I mean, different taste of artichoke. - Where before we might have talked to him by telephone only, now we actually have a forager, someone who goes out and hunts for new products. All of our buying team, our supply team, is out visiting growers every single week. - Partway through this whole business, we grew this green artichokes, and one plant of hundreds and hundreds of acres was purple. - I remember you told me that. What do they call that, a sport? - [Steve] A sport. - [Mary] That is so wild, but, I mean, I know that that's how that happens, but I'm always amazed by it. - And then, from that one artichoke, we then propagated it, making better artichokes. - It wasn't until recently that I think a lot of people didn't realize they can eat the stem. - [Steve] I always use a dull knife. - [Mary] So you don't cut yourself? - [Steve] Don't cut myself, and if can't cut the artichoke, it doesn't deserve to be cut. - [Mary] Oh, really? - It's too tough for the knife, it's too tough for me. - Oh, look how pretty that is. So, all of this in here is edible. - Yep. - This is edible. - Each one of these little petals is a flower that will produce a seed. - I didn't know that. - [Steve] Yeah, but that is just like a sunflower. - We go see our growers, understand the challenges of water here in California. Water is, you know, it's everything. We're in a drought right now, and we're gonna see the effects of that in the next couple years. So understanding the challenges that our growers have help us when we're selling their products. - How is your water situation? Do you have well water? - We have all underground water, so it's, we're like four miles from the ocean, so the quality is okay and the quantity is okay, but there are other people hurting pretty bad with this whole drought. - I know. Well, wherever I go, everybody says "We're okay for this year, but next year, we don't know." And I've had some growers tell me, "Don't even talk to me till October because I don't "even know if I'm gonna have any fruit," which is kind of scary. - The climate change, with the heat waves we've had, has wiped out a lot of crops. A lot of the farmers have two and three different areas to grow in, just as self-protection, if the land is available, so it's going to affect all food. I find it absolutely incredible that there isn't total recognition of climate change. - Drought's a nightmare for us at my farm. We've got 50 acres of stone fruit, and, before I invested, eight years ago, I said to my partner, Andy, "Hey, "ever have a problem with water?" Not in 90 years has the family had a problem. Guess what. This year, there's a problem. And if we don't have that water, the trees are gonna die. The whole investment, these beautiful hundreds of varieties of trees will all be dead. It's a disaster. - The biggest challenges now that we didn't have then is, our business is so volatile because, I mean, you've got droughts and you've got fires and you've got rain or you don't have rain. And so now, if we're looking at a product line that we sell or that we're focused on, we really have to look at alternative sources of supply. What countries should we be importing from? Do our growers have enough water? That they're gonna have crops this year, next year, and the year after? And then, of course, many of them are family businesses. Are their family members gonna want to be in the business in future generations? - The basis of all farming, of course, is a healthy soil, a healthy environment. And I think the real key to all of it is water. - We are very aware of the footprint that we leave on Mother Nature. And so it was our goal in the organic community to always keep the fertility of our soil alive and well. And we always talk about that we're farming today so that our children can have these farms, you know, for future generations. The Salinas Valley was known as the salad bowl of the world, and it's where literally 90% of all of your greens come from. Think of a big, beautiful quilt. And, so the quilt has different squares, and every square has a need and an importance. And so you're looking at where's the best place to grow cauliflower, and where's the best place to grow head lettuce? And so there's always this patchwork of beautiful colors that are happening in the valley, and then they're transitioning, and the next thing you know, it's red onions, and it's strawberries. - So, you know, the soil is important, the climate is important, but it's the farmer's shadow at the end of the day. You can do a lot of things, but if you don't spend the time out there, if you don't watch your crops, if you don't nurture your crops, they're not gonna grow by themselves. - Born and raised Central California, the daughter of a farming family, where Saturday was never about cornflakes and cartoons, it was driving a tractor or harvesting cotton or picking beans or whatever it was. The same time, I learned a great work ethic and I learned that I had a passion for our industry, which led me to wanting to be involved in it when I graduated from college, 'cause I knew this was truly where I belong. I looked throughout the industry to find where I felt like I would be best placed, and that's when I met Frieda and Karen Caplan. And, I knew at that moment that I was home. - You have to understand, when Frieda's first started, there were maybe 60 items at the most in a produce department. Today, you have four, five, 600 items. And we've been responsible for introducing at least 200. - In the old days, you had one or two different carrots. Today, you have maybe 15 to 18 different kinds of carrots. We used to have two to three kinds of tomatoes. If you look at this store, it's probably got 18 to 20 different kinds of tomatoes. - I remember when a customer asked my mom and I, "Aren't you gonna run out of products sometime?" So we had just met Noel Vietmeyer from the National Academy of Sciences. - He's the one that introduced quinoa and jojoba and so many of the lost crops of the Andes, where all the potato varieties. - So my mom said to him, "Noel, are we ever gonna "run out of new products to sell? "I mean, we're going through these pretty fast here." He said, "Frieda, there's between 20,000 "and 80,000 edible varieties on the planet." And that's always been kind of our inspiration, to know that we would never run out. - [Karen] Would you ever have imagined, Mom, okay, so when you started with seedless watermelons, that it would develop to something like this? - [Freida] Unbelievable, my God, they've got a whole display of our stuff. - [Karen] So look at all these chilies, so, yellows, pasillas. - So I remember when we brought in the habanero chilies. - That is one of the most important. That was the overnight success. - [Jackie] The habaneros? - The habanero was the only item that didn't take a lot of years to catch on. - [Karen] I know. - [Jackie] Wasn't that the first package you designed? - This was the first package that Karen designed after we introduced this. - That showed you how to take off the calyx. - How did you introduce these items? Were they something that you saw, like, through traveling? - No, generally speaking, it was items that farmers brought to me that nobody else would pay any attention to. And being that I was on the 7th Street Market, where all the chain-store buyers were coming by, I would introduce it, get them to sample it, and I found a few innovative produce managers and buyers that knew that they had produce managers that would display it and try it and sample it, and it was that simple. - Frieda was in stores seven days a week, really there to prove her passion for this product, and, frankly, to change the entire produce department in the store. - And you don't think of much of the specialty because, in the realm of things, then and now, it's not a big percentage of your business. What it's a big percentage of is your business perception by the consumer. The produce department has a tendency to hold a halo effect over the entire store. If you're good at fresh produce, at the fresh part of the business in the produce section, you're good throughout the rest of the store. - People have used the produce department as the entryway into their store. It's aromatherapy. It's colors. It's aromas. It puts you in a better mood. And if you walk through a fabulous produce department, you're gonna spend more money in that store and spend more time in that store. That's been proven. - And if you could imagine, back in the '70s? - No, this was the '80s, 'cause I remember going down in our warehouse in the 7th Street Market and we had bins of kabocha, butternut, sweet dumpling, gold nugget, delicata, all the specialty varieties. None of them were labeled, and we had to figure out which one was which. It was like name that squash. - Every one of these products that we've introduced-- - [Freida] Has a story. - Has a story. I think that the future of supermarkets, I think the future of shopping for food, of picking the healthy ingredients for your family and for yourself, that that's probably one of the last pleasures there is. - Taste it and, you know, touch and sample and smell, and, really, it's a very holistic approach to produce for me, and it's very deep-seated in my DNA. For me, it's so much more than what, you know, we're feeding our bodies. I'm feeding my soul with produce. - Our mission is to change the way people eat fruits and vegetables, and introduce new fruits and vegetables to the American public and to the worldwide public, as well. - My sister and I were sitting in a room with the guy that works with us on strategy, and we said, "We're the company "that changes the way America eats fruits and vegetables. "That's our mission." And it just, like, crystallized for us, and it's really become a crusade. - There probably is not a city in the United States that sells produce that doesn't have a specialty outlet now on their market. So we don't look at competition the way other people do. It can only benefit us. And we're still the ones that bring the new items. People still look to us, trade commissions, universities. We work with universities all over the United States, all over the world. For one of the important industries, food, you can't survive without food. - We really have a new generation, called the millennials, which are changing the way people buy food, the way people look at food. This generation never wants to eat the same food twice in their entire lifetime. - Being young, it's totally in line with what us millennials want. We want food that we know where it comes from, that we can cook, that's convenient but that's healthy, that tastes good, all these different things. - Whereas my generation, it was about easy, you know? I remember having TV dinners when I was growing up. You know, throw it in the oven. How fast can you get it done? And so eating wasn't an experience. It was something you do, where now kids are more interested in learning how to cook. - Well, what we've seen is, over the past 10 years, there's been a 15% shift of channel, where supermarkets are down 15% in sales, but other channels are up. If you look at the fresh markets, the Sprouts of the world, the Whole Foods, they're up. You look at dollar stores, you look at drug chains, everybody else is up. And it's really because the supermarket took their eye off the ball, and the ball is the consumer. It's the shopper. They didn't see the fact that we'd have 7,000 farmers markets on a weekly basis taking away their business. They really didn't understand why anybody would want to buy milk at a drug chain. - Typically, consumers do not put produce down on their shopping list. They'll put produce or they'll put fruit or they'll put vegetables. Now, you know they're gonna need bananas, so when you want to have a banana, guess where the bananas are? They're in the back of the produce department because it makes you go through the whole store to find those bananas. And so, if you ask a consumer where do they shop, typically they shop in what they call their flight pattern, whatever's close and convenient to where they live or between picking up a kid from soccer or school, on the way to ballet, and they're zooming in. So they have like this much time to make a dinner decision. - When you're competing with products that have 30% of their gross sales going into marketing dollars, whether it be a soda pop or whether it be a manufactured food, a frozen food, a ready-to-eat meal. You know, one of the things America's forgotten is how to cook and how to prepare, and we've taken that away. You don't have the family unity, sitting down and learning from Grandma how to cook. But, you know, it's a very, very low-margin business, and the cost, what we spend on food in America is nothing. We're just used to cheap food. - The major obstacle is access. And, in certain communities, such as mine, where I represent, 80% of our restaurants are fast food. So if you don't even give people the options of knowing about healthy products, then they will continue on the pattern of eating what's available. - One of our biggest competitors is the snack-food industry. You know, it's easy. It's cheap. To go to the local store and buy a bag of chips and a soda pretty quick doesn't cost you a lot of money. And I think that's a challenge for our industry as a whole. - if people had listened to Frieda years ago, we would not be in this obesity market that we're in now. And so you end up with a situation to where a lot of things are in place that, if corrective action isn't taken by the parents and the schools and people to educate young people on what are the benefits of eating healthy and doing a regiment of exercise, then they will fall into a society that will not live as long as those that came before them. - So everything we choose to support financially or philanthropically, if every activity we do in the company, everything we volunteer around, everything we talk about has to do with that mission. And especially now, when everyone knows that obesity is a huge issue and that we have to change the consuming patterns of kids. - I want to spend just a little while talking about some of the hard choices that our country faces when it comes to food and food choices. I love, for example, what I hear you're doing putting salad bars in schools across the country. 3,400 schools in 49 states serving more than two million students so far. - Karen was the first woman in 100 years of the industry to become President of United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association. And this was a barrier that had never been breached. Karen has been one of the chairmen of the putting salad bars into all the schools, working with food-service people that we work with all over the country, urging them to participate in buying salad bars for schools in their areas. The only way you're going to fight obesity and diabetes is getting the young people to change their eating habits, to start eating fresh fruits and vegetables. And this has a ripple effect to their families. - It's funny because you get the naysayers. "Oh, they'll never eat the salad." Well, guess what. They love it, and they're enjoying because it's a salad bar where they get to pick and choose and, you know, they may load up on strawberries today, and who cares? They're eating more colors. - This is why our mission is so timely, and why we've taken the leadership position in the industry. - Think of any time when you've given a kid, and it could be from age one year up, you know, a sweet piece of fruit, a kiwi, just anything. And guess what. Their face lights up. It's magic. That's what we need to get back to, versus having some imitation-flavored fruit roll-up kind of thing that they just eat row after row after row of it, and they're not satisfied as if they would be if they just had an apple. The store needs to focus on quality and service. It needs to up the ante in education of produce managers and really learning those communication skills that, again, I think Frieda taught us all on how to explain food. - But that is be responding to consumers. They can make you and make you a lot of money, or you can lose and go into another place, another store, if you don't respond. - Absolutely, give the consumer what they want, rather than pushing them somewhere else. - A farmer came to me, I thought was a small farmer, he says, "I have a few mangoes. "Would you be interested?" And I was very new, the first year I was in business. I didn't know he was the biggest citrus grower in Mexico and a small quantity was about four carloads. I had every single storage place on the LA market area covered. - And she found that, unlike kiwifruit, mangoes do not have a long shelf life. So how many cases do you typically sell in a week? - Of kiwi? - Yeah. - Ooh, probably one to two a day, so maybe 10 to 15, yeah. - But that's one store, so how many stores are in the chain? - So, 10 cases times 160, so-- - You have 160? - So, my mom's first shipment was how many boxes, 200? - 200 10-pound boxes. - 200 10-pound boxes, the first crop was 2,000 pounds. And you're gonna sell that much-- - In a week. - And that took us four months to sell. But, ironically, I am allergic to kiwifruit, only because I think I sold and tested it to so many people for so long. I think when you overeat on something, you can develop an allergy. As a matter of fact, I'm having a reaction right now. Yeah. - John, more than 4,100 students are graduating, and nearly 30,000 people will be filling these bleachers tomorrow morning to cheer on the class of 2014. - The relationship with the Caplan family is very special. These are people that have a very successful business, but they're not in it for the money. You know, Karen and Frieda could have sold out years ago and been living on a beach somewhere. It's not about that. It's more powerful than just a business, and that's why it is so important that we've got these businesses, we've got these brands that get handed down from family to family to family for generations. - Just looking at this, I have never seen you like that. - My mom never lets me-- - [Karen] I don't say anything. - Do you have your speech ready to go? - Yes, ma'am. - Have you practiced? - Yes, ma'am. - Let's think of a stool. There's four legs to a stool. We know that work was a major part of her life, but family, faith, and community, she may have done it differently than the rest of us. - I'm so glad to see you, congratulations. - [Freida] Thank you very, very much. - It's so well-deserved. And thank you for letting us honor you. - Are you excited about today? Or what are you thinking right now? Are you even there? - I am just like this. I can't get over this. I really can't. I'm just, I'm still stunned at the whole picture. It's not purple. - As you kind of grow and learn and mature in business, being an activist is sort of a natural progression. I've always looked at people like Frieda and followed in their footsteps. You know, she was a trailblazer as an activist. - And the fact that Frieda started this company, was the first woman in the produce business to own her own company just is incredible. Back then, I mean, you're talking about, you know, at that period of time, when there weren't women in the industry. Women still have a long way to go, and I think, you know, the more we can set examples, the better it is. - This is her passion, this is her life, this is her hobby, and I think that's what keeps her young, having this interesting career, and I don't know if she'd call it a career. I think it's her life. - It was weird. I don't remember my grandma working. I remember her being at the office, but I don't remember my working grandmother. She was, you know, the woman that brought kiwi to America. That was really cool. And, now I think it means more to me than back then, even. Lessons that she learned 40, 50 years ago, that she tells me about, it's so relevant still today. - Cal Poly, it is one of the most amazing schools on the planet, and this learn by doing, and this connection to the land, and this being truly sustainable, you know, it's very inspiring. - I went to Cal Poly. I mean, obviously, you know, she's had a major impact on a lot of students that have gone through there. And she's had a lot of impact on the agricultural community of California because of her ability to take new products, new, unique items to market. It's helped farmers that would otherwise may not have been able to be in existence today, that were able to realize their dream. - This is something that, for her, I think, it's a culmination of bringing her education, her life experience, and her family's life experience under one umbrella, and to honor her appropriately. And so, in the future, I'm sure we're all gonna have to call her Doctor, but it's deserving. - Every day is a gift with my mom. And every day, I learn something from her. But probably the biggest impact she's made is the idea of having an open mind always. Always be kind to everyone. My mom and I have talked many times about what her speech is gonna be. So she says to me, "Karen, I want to change their lives. "I'm gonna be at Cal Poly, and I have two minutes "to thank them for honoring me." At age 90, my mom still cares about what she's gonna say and how she can change someone's life. - We recognize Ms. Frieda Rapoport Caplan for her influence in the fields of agriculture and her entrepreneurial work that inspires society and the produce industry. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, on the recommendation of the faculty of California Polytechnic State University, and by the authority vested in me by the trustees of the California State University, I am proud to confer upon you the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, with all attendant rights, responsibilities, and distinctions. Congratulations. - Thank you, Jeff. When you're almost 91, it's okay to call the president of the university by his first name. I graduated UCLA in 1945. But I had no idea what I wanted to do. I hadn't taken a single business course. But I learned that my college experience prepared me for life. I started Frieda's Specialty Produce 52 years ago, but I did not have a business plan. Associates tell me that success came because I never saw obstacles. 90 years had passed since Americans had met their last new fruit, the banana, in 1870, in Philadelphia. So when I introduced kiwifruit in 1962, people told me I was crazy, but that didn't stop me. My late mother always said my greatest strength was due to my optimistic, positive view of things. She passed on her guiding principles to me, and today, I wish to share them with you. Never badmouth others. Always listen to the whole story. Be a voice in your community. With my mom in mind, the most important message I can leave with you today is to be politically active. Vote. Speak up. Whether it is about gun control, fracking, the Dream Act, or GMOs, don't sit silently by. Be a part of the action and help make the world a better place. Thanks to everyone involved in granting me this very special honorary degree. It'll be fun being called Dr. Frieda. I don't look at it as something that is a very special life. All the credit I get for so many things that Frieda's has accomplished, a great many of them really are due to my daughters, Karen and Jackie, and my granddaughter, Alex. I love to connect people. I'm a connector. I love to bring people together. I've never let go of anybody I've ever known. What we have done is evolving. Our task will never be finished. I've still got a lot to do. I just have been a very lucky person. Kiwifruit, elephant garlic, shallots, alfalfa sprouts. - Rambutan, lychee, cherimoya, sapote, tamarillo. - Kiwano, passion fruit, dragon fruit, starfruit. - Tofu, egg-roll wrappers, wonton wrappers. - Mangosteen, sugar snap peas. - Ginger, daikon, baby pineapple. - Kabocha, Australian blue squash, habanero chilies, ghost chilies. - Donut peaches, Asian pears. - Jackfruit, babaco. - I'm, like, blanking out. Let's see. What else do we have? - Lemongrass, we have, oh, gosh. - Uh, did I get the sugar snap pea? - I have to keep, you know, I'm process, right? So I went to category to category to category. - It's been so many items that I actually have lost track. - Did I get more than anybody else? Okay, awesome. - You're gonna have to do an awful lot of editing on this.

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