64 years of spudtacular success for McCain

Posted on December 17, 2021 | By Alexander Chafe | 0 Comments

We’re all accustomed to the convenience of popping some frozen fries in the oven at dinner. For the McCain family, providing this sort of great tasting prepared food has been a mission for 64 years. What started with frozen fries has expanded to a worldwide brand selling a variety of frozen foods. Today, one out of every four fries eaten in the world is a McCain French fry — quite an accomplishment for two brothers from N.B.


LEFT: Harrison and Wallace McCain at the Florenceville factory site in 1956, and RIGHT: opening day at the Florenceville factory in 1957 as they watched Premier Hugh John Flemming and federal minister of labour Milton Gregg cut the ribbon. (Photo Credit: McCain Foods Ltd.).


Entrepreneurial Spirit

Brothers Wallace and Harrison McCain had entrepreneurship in their blood. Their father, A.D. McCain, was a third generation potato farmer with a potato seed exporting business.

Wallace and Harrison co-founded McCain Foods in 1957 in their hometown of Florenceville, N.B, with some help from their older brothers and inheritance from their father’s business. McCain’s first production facility started with a staff of 30, which could produce close to 750 kilograms of frozen fries each hour. Revenue from the first year of operation was $153,000.


McCain’s first French fry plant in the UK opened in Scarborough, North Yorkshire in 1968 (Photo credit: McCain Foods Ltd.).


Worldwide Expansion

Growth sprouted from there. Venturing beyond Canada, McCain brought their frozen fries (aka “chips”) to the U.K. in 1965. They then expanded sales to Australia in 1968, the U.S. in 1969 and continued to grow worldwide over the years through acquisitions and investment in facilities.

In addition to geographic expansion, the company also diversified their product offerings. McCain expanded to include pizza products in the ‘70s, juice in the ‘80s, as well as various potato and vegetable products, appetizers, fish and desserts over the years. Product offerings for the frozen foods empire vary across regions, and some even include non-frozen products like potato flakes and mashed potatoes.


Cover of a 1993 edition of Maclean’s magazine featuring the feud between brothers Harrison and Wallace McCain (Photo credit: Maclean’s).


Family Feud

Wallace and Harrison McCain served as co-CEOs for 36 years, until 1993 when there was a disagreement over succession planning. Harrison felt McCain needed an outside successor, while Wallace wanted his son Michael to take over the family business. The result was a long and complicated legal battle. Harrison eventually won in court and named his nephew Allison McCain as his replacement.

After leaving McCain, Wallace maintained his one-third shares and moved on to become chair of Maple Leaf Foods.


McCain crinkle cut fry packaging from the 1970s (left) and from 2021 (right). (Photo credit: McCain Foods Ltd.)


Worldwide Success

Today, McCain is a global leader in frozen potato products, which are available in over 160 countries. The company has production facilities on six continents, over 20,000 employees and produces over one-million pounds of potato products each hour. Still a privately-held company, McCain Foods is led by its Global Management Team, with guidance from a board that includes chairman Scott McCain and other members of the McCain family.

Locally and worldwide, McCain products remain a staple in the freezer aisle.

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