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Alberta French Fries For The World

Driving past McCain’s french fry plant on Highway 3, you don’t see much more than a few steam stacks and the white walls of the facility. Inside, though, is a whole other story.

There’s more french fries and potatoes than you could ever imagine. A tour of the facility reveals one of the most technologically advanced french fry plants in Canada.

Jared Shular, stat ist ical process control (SPC) coordinator at McCain’s plant in Coaldale, says the plant is nearly 10 years old and until recently was the newest McCain plant in the country. It is located about 12 kilo-metres east of the town. In 2008, a new $65 million state-of-the-art potato-processing plant was opened in Florenceville, New Brunswick, replacing the first factory ever built by McCain more than 50 years ago.

Today, McCain Foods has more than 20,000 employees working in 57 factories on six continents around the world. Through its food service and retail divisions, McCain products are found in thousands of restaurants and supermarket freezers in more than 130 countries around the world.

At the Coaldale facility, there are 275 employees, working on various shifts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except Christmas and New Year’s. Typically, there are four 12-hour shifts of two days and two nights, and then four days off, says Jim Rideout, plant manager.

Departments at the 190,000-square-foot facility include human resources, McCain competitive edge, production (including receiving, processing and packaging), shipping, maintenance and quality control. A sophisticated system of conveyors, washers, slicers, dicers, fryers and freezers processes up to 33,000 pounds of potatoes per hour, or 200 million pounds annually.

The plant produces about 30 different products on its main line and by line for a variety of clients. Shular says most of the product is shipped overseas since the Coaldale plant is the closest McCain’s facility to the Pacific shipping routes. In the packaging area, boxes with Arabic or Mandarin text show just how far Alberta potatoes are shipped.

McCain Foods Limited was incorporated in 1956 and the first french fry plant started up in 1957 in the McCain brothers’ hometown of Florenceville, New Brunswick. In its first year, the company’s 30 employees produced 1,500 pounds of product an hour and earned sales of $152,678.

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