French fry giant McCain is investing $600 million to double its potato processing capacity in Alberta
French fries giant McCain Foods Ltd. has announced it will spend $600 million to double the size of its potato processing facility in southern Alberta.
The Toronto-based food company, which boasts it produces one in four french fries produced worldwide, is making the largest investment in its history to double production at its Coaldale plant, east of the city of Lethbridge.
McCain said the project will create two new production lines, one for french fries and one for other frozen specialty potatoes. When the expansion is complete, 260 new jobs are expected to be created, more than doubling the facility’s current workforce.
“We anticipate strong volume growth over the next five years and need this expansion to meet anticipated growth,” McCain Foods CEO Max Koeune said in an emailed statement.
Koeune attributed some of the expected growth to the ongoing recovery in the restaurant and hospitality sector. Demand for french fries and other frozen potato products collapsed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on on-site dining.
The expansion also speaks to the company’s confidence in the future of Canadian agriculture, Koeune said. The company has contracts with potato growers in Alberta, most of them in the Lethbridge area, to supply the Coaldale plant.
“Doubling our production capacity at Coaldale will strengthen the strong relationships we have with our farmers today and in the future,” said Koeune.
McCain said the expansion, which is set to begin construction later this year, will also have a strong focus on environmental sustainability. The project includes plans for wind turbines and solar panels to power the facility with 100 percent renewable electricity, as well as the use of renewable biogas produced at the site’s wastewater treatment plant to offset natural gas needs.
In 2021, McCain made a commitment to regenerative agriculture, promising by 2030 to only source potatoes from farms that employ practices actively aimed at improving and revitalizing soil health and quality.
Federal government statistics show that potatoes are the fifth largest primary agricultural crop in Canada after wheat, canola, soybeans and corn.
In 2021, potato farmers across Canada produced about 5.7 million tons of potatoes, with Prince Edward Island being the largest potato-growing province, followed closely by Manitoba and Alberta.