Jan 20, 2020
Frieda Rapoport Caplan, produce industry leader, dies

Produce industry pioneer Frieda Rapoport Caplan, 96, died in her home on Jan 18.

Frieda Rapoport Caplan

Caplan is widely praised for her role in elevating the role of women in the fresh produce business, and also credited with helping to introduce kiwifruit and other specialties to the U.S. market.

The subject of the 2015 documentary film “Fear No Fruit,” Caplan became the first woman in the U.S. to own and operate a produce company on the all-male Los Angeles Wholesale Produce Market.

Focusing on specialties, she helped introduce the kiwifruit to the American market in 1962 and later marketed more than 200 exotic fruits and vegetables, including Sunchokes, dragon fruit, habanero peppers, jicama and Stokes Purple sweet potatoes.

PMA statement from CEO Cathy Burns on the passing of Frieda’s Inc. CEO and Chairman of the Board Frieda Rapoport Caplan

“The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) global community and its staff are deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Frieda Rapoport Caplan.

Frieda’s contributions to the fresh produce industry and consumer palate are many, such as the introduction and acceptance of a multitude of specialty/exotic fresh fruits and vegetables including the kiwifruit, Asian pear, chile pepper varieties, and purple potatoes to name just a few.

As a female business owner in an overwhelmingly male-oriented industry, Frieda provided an example to many aspiring women executives and, in conversations we shared, it was very apparent she always had an open door to those seeking a mentor and guidance. She also delighted in the fact that her daughters and granddaughter were carrying forward the torch she lit when she founded Frieda’s, Inc. in 1962.

Recently PMA, through our Center for Growing Talent, honored Frieda with our Women’s Catalyst Award. The award recognizes an outstanding individual in the produce and floral industries who cultivates women’s potential by mentoring and fostering a path for leadership, development and participation. As seen during the award presentation at Fresh Summit 2019, countless women who have benefited from sitting under Frieda’s learning tree joined in our celebration of her.

Upon joining PMA, Frieda’s office was among my very first “must do” member visits, and she literally welcomed me with open arms to our industry. In the five years since, it was not uncommon to open my e-mail and find a note from Frieda offering her unique insights on trends, innovation, and inspiration.

Throughout her career, Frieda has been described as a fearless entrepreneur, product innovator, produce pioneer, trailblazer, icon, and vanguard.

She is all these accolades to others and me, but most of all I am incredibly blessed and proud to have called her a friend.

PMA joins the Caplan and Frieda’s families in mourning the loss of their matriarch.”


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