2020 Produce Business 40 Under Forty Award Winner: Bianca Kaprielian

Age: 36
CEO and Co-Owner
Fruit World Company, Inc.
Reedley, CA

Kaprielian’s family has been farming in California’s San Joaquin Valley for four generations. After a first career in documentary filmmaking, she was drawn back to agriculture and attended the UC Santa Cruz apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture and Sustainable Food Systems. Upon graduation, she worked as a project manager for the non-profit group Sustainable Agriculture Education (SAGE), working with growers and stakeholders to map California’s ag lands. Through efforts with SAGE, she discovered she wanted to continue working closely with growers and set her sights on becoming a produce buyer. She earned her produce buying chops at Veritable Vegetable, said to be the oldest organic wholesaler in the country, where she handled the procurement of citrus and dry veg. Two years later, she was presented with an opportunity to join the produce procurement team at Whole Foods’ Northern California Distribution Center. In her tenure at Whole Foods, she gained deep insight into the produce retail world. In 2017, she left to start Fruit World Company with CJ Buxman. The company’s goal is to ensure family farms (including her family farms) and farmers across the state have viable outlets for the produce grown – enabling farms to continue into future generations. In addition to the fruit grown by its own families and farms, Fruit World now represents product from eight other growers and sells to major retailers in the U.S. Sales have doubled year-over-year since 2017, with the company adding additional staff each year as well.

Hobbies: Travel, Eating her way through new cities, Archery, Learning new skills (currently woodworking)

Personal/Community: Married, Supports HealthRight360 (a San Francisco based health care and substance rehabilitation non-profit serving California communities), Smith College alumnae group

Motto in life: “Age is a privilege that not everyone gets, so be grateful for each year and live life to the fullest.”

Q: How did you begin working in the produce industry?
I grew up in the industry. Some of my earliest memories are riding around the ranches in the pickup truck with my dad. When I was a child we grew stone fruit and table grapes, then when I was in high school we transitioned to citrus. My summers were spent working at the family packing house, Kaprielian Brothers Packing (now Eastside Packing). I grew up being encouraged not to farm because it is such hard work, but as the saying goes, “you can take the girl out of the farm, but can’t take the farm out of the girl.”

Q: What accomplishment are you most proud of in your career?
Starting Fruit World Co. is the accomplishment I am most proud of in my career to date. CJ and I started the company from scratch and have put so much of ourselves into creating a sales company that benefits not just us, but equally our families, community of growers, and customers.

Q: What industry improvements would you like to see?
I would love to see more women in leadership roles in the produce industry. The industry needs to continue promoting and valuing diversity in executive positions. We’ve made some huge strides since I was a kid and I’m grateful for all the women and men who have paved the way for young female CEOs like me.

Q: What are some of the more challenging aspects of a career in the produce industry today?
A major challenge currently in our industry is retaining and recruiting young farmers. Farming requires so much more than a nine-to-five commitment and there are not a lot of mentorship opportunities, not to mention the high costs of starting up if you don’t have land available to you. For the industry to thrive we need to be making farming a viable and exciting option for young people. This is a big part of why we created Fruit World Co.