Frieda Caplan

August 10, 1923–January 18, 2020

by JWA Staff
Our work to expand the Encyclopedia is ongoing. We are providing this brief biography for Frieda Caplan until we are able to commission a full entry.

Frieda Caplan. Courtesy of Frieda's Specialty Produce.

Frieda Caplan’s specialty food company  helped introduce a wide variety of fruits and vegetables to American palates, from kiwis and Asian pears to spaghetti squash and habanero chilies. Caplan graduated from UCLA in 1945 and worked in a law firm and a nylon factory until she became pregnant in the 1950s and began looking for a job with flexible hours. She began working as a vendor at the Los Angeles wholesale produce market, selling brown mushrooms, shallots, and other small specialty items that didn’t suit the larger wholesalers. In 1962 she convinced California farmers to grow Chinese gooseberries, a New Zealand fruit that she renamed kiwi, and officially opened Frieda’s Produce Specialties, the first wholesale produce company owned and operated by a woman. The company’s success with over 600 exotic items has been to educate consumers with descriptions and recipes. The technique has helped bring alfalfa, mango, donut peaches, and purple potatoes to mainstream American groceries. In 1986 her older daughter, Karen, became president and CEO, and her younger daughter, Jackie, later became vice president. In 1990 the pair became co-owners of the business. Frieda Caplan remained involved in the day-to-day workings of the business. She died on January 18, 2020. 


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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Frieda Caplan." (Viewed on May 23, 2024) <>.