Alex jackson berkley carries on her grandmother's passion

Alex Jackson Berkley is something of a rarity in our industry: a young woman growing into a leadership role in a family-owned company founded and led by women. She’s the granddaughter of Frieda’s Specialty Produce founder Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan and the eldest daughter of current CEO Karen Caplan; her aunt, Jackie Caplan Wiggins is vice president and COO, and her younger sister, Sophia, also works with the company. 

Founded in 1962, Frieda’s built its brand by introducing the kiwifruit to the U.S. market. “Frieda was way ahead of her time,” Alex says. “We were the first specialty produce company in the industry and the first company that was a marketer, not just a distributor. We were the first to establish our own brand on the products, to put a recipe on our packaging, to offer a satisfaction guarantee.”

Alex has literally grown up in the business (she attended her first produce trade show at age 2) and has worked there full-time for the past 6 years. 

“Many people are surprised that we all work together so well,” she says. “We all have different strengths, we all balance each other out, there’s no family drama. I admire Karen and Jackie for how professional they are and that they’re who I have to follow. I’ve learned from their strengths and their weaknesses.”

With such strong role models, Alex is naturally gravitating toward building her own influence in the produce industry, notably in support of women in business. She recently chaired Center for Growing Talent Women’s Fresh Perspectives Advisory Committee and helped steer the 2017 Women’s Fresh Perspectives Conference. “I was at the first WFP conference and went to all the receptions,” Alex recalls. “When Karen said she wanted Frieda’s to be more involved in CGT, I knew the Women’s Fresh Perspectives program was a perfect opportunity not only for Frieda’s, but for me to grow professionally.” 

She appreciates the program’s focus on helping women achieve a balance of personal and professional success. CGT partners with industry leaders and with Smith College to develop an agenda that addresses women’s opportunities at different stages in their careers. As WFP participants advance, they pave the way for younger talent. 

“The younger people coming in to our industry don’t have a lot of the preconceived notions about gender roles in business that have been prominent in our industry for decades,” Alex says. “We’re in a world now where people are aware of women’s skills and we’re able to chase after opportunity. I think our industry is one of the first in the food business to start shifting away from those stereotypes.”

Alex’s passion for produce—which she clearly shares with her grandmother—came through in her volunteer work with CGT. “Frieda was such a pioneer, and people in the industry have always supported us,” she says. “So giving back to the industry is really important for our company.”