McCain Foods



Food, Soft Beverages, Alcohol & Tobacco



McCain Foods Limited
439 King Street West, 5th Floor
Toronto, ON, Canada M5V 1K4

Tel: (416) 955-1700




  • Canada’s Best Employers 2021 – #195
  • World’s Best Employers 2020 -#71
  • Top 10 most Valuable Food Brands in the World by Brand Finance – #9




Francois Tasmowski




Report created by Kavita Kripalani

McCain Foods

SECTIONS :  Sustainability    Evaluation  •  Progress  •  Watch  •  Overview

Company Activity

McCain Foods is a Canadian multinational frozen food company established in 1957 in Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada. The company was co-founded in 1957 by brothers Harrison McCain and Wallace McCain with the help of their two older brothers, and has been privately owned by the family since its foundation.

Initially specialized in prepared potato products, the company expanded during the 1970s-1990s into additional prepared food markets including frozen pizza and vegetables. In 2017, McCain Foods became is the world’s largest manufacturer of frozen potato products, and has over 20,000 employees and 47 production facilities in six continents. 

Company Sustainability Activity

McCain Foods’ purpose and family values guide their everyday actions and are rooted in their culture in all aspect of their business. The multinational understands it is essential that they operate in a sustainable way in order to preserve biodiversity, empower communities and mitigate climate change.

They also understand the importance that food plays in bringing people, families and communities together, and defined their purpose as ‘celebrating real connections through planet-friendly food’. They aim to achieve their sustainability goals through collaborating teams, business and community partners around the world.


  • Their Farms of the Future program aims to develop, showcase, and roll out regenerative farming practices, with a specific focus on potato farming. Through three McCain-owned, commercially operating farms across three different growing regions, the company will explore the latest agricultural technologies and innovations, and create testbeds for alternative farming models. They will explore sustainable agricultural practices, focused on soil health, CO2 reduction, and biodiversity conservation. In partnership with leading academics and suppliers, these farms will serve as training centres for growers, employees, customers, and researchers. Once they demonstrate the viability of their Farms of the Future program, they aim to roll out the best sustainable agricultural practices across the global farm network. 
  • To address the growing issue of water scarcity, McCain conducted a global water risk assessment to identify priority areas for water management. Compared to traditional pivot irrigation systems, their initiatives showed that drip irrigation systems increased water efficiency by more than 20%. As a result, their growers in China and India have increased their use of drip irrigation to 17% and 80% respectively since 2016
  • To help address the urgent biodiversity crisis, the company recently became a founding member of the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B). OP2B is a business-led coalition of forward-thinking, agriculture-centric companies determined to enhance regenerative agricultural practices to protect and restore cultivated and natural biodiversity within their value chains and product portfolios. 
  • They are working to replace palm oil with healthier oil alternatives, such as sunflower, soy, and canola, to reduce saturated fat across their entire range and mitigate deforestation. Their frying operations in North America, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand are already palm-oil free. Until they achieve this globally, they’ll continue to purchase 100% of their palm-oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified suppliers.
  • As part of McCain’s efforts to promote healthier lifestyles, the company does not take part in any advertising, adver-gaming, promotional initiatives, or other communications targeting children under the age of 12
  • In Australia and New Zealand, they’ve reduced sodium and saturated fat across their potato products, meals, pizzas, and desserts, and introduced healthier, new options. In 2001, they launched the ‘Healthy Choice’ range with lower sodium and fat contents. All Healthy Choice products score a minimum of 3.5 of a possible 5 stars in the Australian Government’s Health Star Rating (HSR) system.
  • They actively support voluntary FOP labelling that is based on evidence, consumer insight, marketplace adoption, aligned with public health goals and supported by consumer education. For example in Belgium and France almost all their retail potato products have a Nutri-Score rating of either ‘A’ or ‘B’.



  • Targeting zero incidents at work.


  • Striving towards inclusion across the workforce.


  • Zero tolerance for corruption or human rights abuses.


  • Fair compensation for all McCain employees.

Smart & Sustainable Farming

  • 25% reduction in CO2 emissions per tonne from potato farming, storage, and freight by 2030 (Scope 3) 
  • 15% improvement in water-use efficiency in water-stressed regions by 2025.
  • Continuing to promote good agricultural practices.
  • Investing in three Farms of the Future to showcase regenerative agricultural practices by 2025.

Resource-Efficient Operations

  • 50% reduction in CO2 emissions (Scope 1 & 2) and 100% renewable energy by 2030.
  • 15% improvement in water-use efficiency in seven priority plants by 2025.
  • Zero waste to landfill and 100% potato utilization by 2025.
  • Making 100% of packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

Good Food

  1. Producing good food with recognizable ingredients: Using ingredients consumers recognize, expect, and accept, and explaining the use of artificial ingredients where it is not possible to remove them.
  2. Reducing saturated fat as they eliminate palm oil: Removing palm oil from their frying operations for McCain-branded products by 2025.
  3. Making your favourites even better: Reducing sodium by 15% in their potato and appetizer products by 2025.
  4. Helping people make informed decisions: Providing clear and transparent nutritional information.
  5. Expanding their healthier offerings: Continuing to innovate and expand their healthier offerings in potato, appetizer, and new product segments.

Thriving Communities

  • Training, knowledge and technology transfer to their growers.
  • Improving the livelihoods of 10,000 smallholder growers, women and young people by 2025.
  • Enhancing the development of McCain Foods’ team members.


*The below progress updates correspond to each point stated in the above ‘Targets’ section


  • Target zero incidents at work: Nothing we do is worth getting hurt for’ is a phrase used frequently at McCain, where safety is a number-one employee priority. Their dedication to safety has been industry leading over the past five years, with a total incident rate (TIR) consistently below 1.00. In 2018, their TIR was 0.53, down 40% from 0.88 in 2014. In 2019, they began a comprehensive five-year safety program, supported by significant investment, to achieve their target of zero incidents.
  • 47% of their locations achieved a TIR of zero for the last 12 months.
  • Throughout COVID-19, safety has continued to be their number one priority.

Good Food

1. Producing good food with recognizable ingredients 

  • Using high-quality potatoes that are washed, cut, prepared, cooked, frozen, and packed. 
  • Around 25% of their food sales represent other products like vegetables, appetizers, entrées, pizzas, and desserts. 
  • As part of their Good Food commitment, they are working towards only using ingredients that consumers recognize, expect, and accept. In their food production, they use the ‘clean labelling’ principle, which consists of using as few ingredients as possible and limit the use of artificial flavours, colours, and preservatives. Historically, they’ve taken a regional approach to clean labelling, in line with local regulations and consumer desires. 
  • Looking ahead, they’ll continue to identify further opportunities for simplifying they’re products, without compromising on taste or convenience.
  • McCain fries are made with whole potatoes, sourced directly from farmers in the rural communities around McCain’s plants.

2. Reducing saturated fat as they eliminate palm oil

  • Switching to healthier, planet-friendlier oils. 
  • Due to the environmental and societal impact of deforestation, they purchase 100% of their palm oil from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certified suppliers.
  • Their frying operations in North America, Great Britain, Australia, and New Zealand are also already palm-oil free. 
  • In addition to the environmental benefit of removing palm oil, the switch also improves the nutritional profile of the product as saturated fats in palm oil are significantly higher than healthier oil alternatives, such as sunflower oil. 
  • As part of their efforts to continuously improve products’ nutritional profile, they will continue to remove palm oil from all their operations. 
  • In their frying processes, they use a relatively small amount of palm oil. In 2018, it represented only 14% of their total oil used globally. 
  • They are now working to replace palm oil with healthier oil alternatives, such as sunflower, soy, and canola, to reduce saturated fat across their entire range. 
  • They began switching from palm to sunflower oil in Continental Europe in 2011. All McCain branded potato products are now prefried in alternative oil, which has reduced the amount of saturated fat by 75% since they began.

3. Making your favourites even better

  • McCain wish to serve excellent quality food including in its nutritional aspect. Globally, they’ve already eliminated partially hydrogenated vegetable oils from their frying processes, in line with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations
  • They’re currently developing global Nutrition, Health, and Wellness strategy. In some countries, they also reformulated existing products to reduce saturated fat and achieve lower sodium levels. As part of this work, they’ve made it a priority to better understand the nutritional performance of their global product portfolio. They evaluated the sodium, saturated fat, and total sugar levels in their products and identified opportunities to reduce levels further in some markets
  • In 2018, they committed to further reducing sodium in their total global potato and appetizer portfolios by 15% by 2025.
  • Despite positive changes in mature and emerging markets, such as Great Britain and China, they saw a 4% increase in sodium in their global potato portfolio in 2019 and no change in sodium in their global appetizer portfolio. They will continue expanding their sodium reduction efforts across more geographies as they strive to achieve their 2025 target. They also plan to expand the sales volume of healthier products while increasing fibre, protein, and micronutrients wherever possible.
  • They reduced sodium content by over 40% on average in their European McCain-branded potato product portfolio since 2011.

4. Helping people make informed decisions  

  • They actively support voluntary FOP labelling that is based on evidence, consumer insight, marketplace adoption, aligned with public health goals and supported by consumer education. For example, in Belgium and France almost all their retail potato products have a Nutri-Score rating of either ‘A’ or ‘B’.
  • In 2006, McCain became the first food manufacturer in the UK to use colour coded Front-Of-Pack nutritional labelling. Today, 95% of their retail products in the UK carry green (low) or amber (medium) nutritional indicators for fat, saturated fat, sodium, and sugar contents.

5. Expanding their healthier offerings

Pioneering positive change 

  • As consumers become increasingly health and planet-conscious, they’re exploring the future of food and expanding their product portfolio to include more vegetable, vegan, and gluten-free options. At the same time as consumer preferences begin to change, the company is witnessing critical global health challenges such as rising obesity levels and non-communicable diseases due to malnutrition. They’re combating these global challenges by understanding consumer health and wellness needs and pioneering new and healthier product options.
  • McCain developed specific products to meet the health and wellness needs of school children and people in senior care. One example of this is in Canada, where they’ve redeveloped 22 potato products with a special focus on lower fat and sodium levels to meet the needs of seniors. 
  • They’ve also created a Healthcare Resource Guide and recipe database to help healthcare professionals and chefs understand the nutritional benefits of these products, while inspiring new delicious and nutritious meals.

Ideas and innovations 

  • Out-of-the-box thinking and agility is key to driving innovation. To help their global teams move at pace, they recently created a virtual Research & Development Centre of Expertise for Nutrition, Health, and Wellness. The centre connects McCain business leaders to functional subject matter experts, consumers, health professionals, governmental bodies, and opinion leaders. By bringing nutrition science, consumer insights, and external trends together, they believe that they can deliver innovative ideas to positively impact diets, the planet, and their business. 

Progress through partnership

  • McCain had been collaborating with leading academic groups working to promote nutrition and innovation for many years. For example, they’re part of the Diet, Nutrition, and Physical Activity committee with FoodDrinkEurope Task Force, and work with the French Institute for Fats and Oils (ITERG) – an organization that researches how to make oils and fats healthier and more sustainable. McCain has a number of team members who lead or are members of bodies driving the future of Food and Nutrition. These include the rotational President of the Nutrition Policy Committee of the French National Association of Food Industries (ANIA), and the rotational President of the Food Law Committee of the European Potato Processors’ Association. They also engage with the US Alliance for Potato Research & Education (APRE), which is dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of the role of potatoes in promoting people’s health. Through these partnerships and affiliations, they are furthering nutrition research on potato products and enabling healthier choices via communication and education. they aim for dynamic relationships that strengthen their efforts in ensuring a sustainable, safe, and healthy food future for their customers and consumers.


United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

United Nations SDGs Compliance


  • Ending hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition for all will require continued and focused efforts. Through investments in agriculture, capacity building in rural communities and partnerships McCain can support food security and supply chain resilience


  • Access to safe water and sanitation, and sound management of freshwater ecosystems, are essential to human health, environmental sustainability, and economic prosperity. As global water stress increases, they are dedicated to improving water-use efficiency in operations and with growers.


  • To achieve energy access for all, and meet targets for renewable energy and energy efficiency the world must fully embrace new technologies and commit to higher levels of financing. They have pledged to reduce by 50% their CO2 footprint across their global plants, cease use of coal, and switch to 100% renewable electricity.


  • Increasing labour productivity, reducing unemployment, and improving access to financial services are essential to inclusive economic growth. McCain promotes this by stimulating employment and developing knowledge and employability in rural areas. 

SDG 12

  • Food waste, food losses in production chains, and inefficient use of natural resources negatively impact the natural environment. McCain promotes energy, water, and waste efficiency with their growers and in their plants through smart and sustainable production methods

SDG 13

  • Climate change is the single most urgent environmental issue facing the world today. It also affects the consistency and quality of raw material sourcing. McCain mitigates against and adapts to climate change by enabling new collaborations across its value chain. 

SDG 17

  • Despite some positive developments, the SDGs need a stronger commitment to partnership and cooperation. McCain seeks smart partnerships to deliver its commitments and contribute meaningfully to delivering the SDGs.


McCain Foods clearly pushes sustainability as the main component of its agenda. The company has specific targets, consistent progress, and focused alignment with UN SDGs. They also have laudable certificates, and solid awards, and listings

They provide good KPI’s to support their goals and progress. The company’s goals and progress are transparent about both their achievements and areas of improvement. They use a holistic approach toward sustainability by incorporating initiatives both large and small alike and keeping in mind stakeholders of all kinds. For example, their efforts to help farmers build long-term, sustainable financial systems is a huge initiative that will help lift small communities, yet they also pay close attention to their advertising practices so as to not mislead children, and have adopted lower fat and sodium levels to meet the needs of their elderly customers. 

The company produces a comprehensive report with specific targets and goals for reducing their CO2 emissions, energy consumption, food waste, water usage, renewable energy, and raw material consumption in alignment with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

McCain Foods has made strides to promote sustainability. To see their initiatives, see the Key Points section below. For these reasons, this company has been rated a B.

Analyst Outlook: Neutral

McCain Foods shows progress in its sustainable business practices on multiple fronts and is doing great work in its efforts toward CSR. They could benefit from targeting and communicating their alignment with additional SDGs and achieving higher sustainability rankings and awards. They should also continue building their reputation as a sustainable company by gaining recognition through initiatives such as the CDP and Dow Jones Sustainability Indices.


Key Points

  • The company is transparent as it communicates both its accomplishments and setbacks in sustainability
  • Since the outbreak of coronavirus, McCain Foods has donated 20 million pounds of potato products to support Food Banks Canada, Second Harvest and other local food security organisations across the country.
  • McDonald’s has teamed up with frozen potato firm McCain and the Prince’s Countryside Fund in a bid to boost the resilience of Britain’s potatoes and livestock farming against the growing risks of climate change and environmental degradation. Together, the two firms have pledged to provide £1m million in grants to British potato growers to help increase their crop resilience by enabling growers to use new technology to improve the understanding of soil quality and optimise water management.
  • McCain Foods, Canada, announced the new Farms of the Future initiative to advance sustainable farming practices by demonstrating scalability and economic viability. This program will collaborate with universities, technology companies and other agri-centric companies on dedicated commercial farms that will pilot regenerative potato farming practices and emerging agriculture technologies. Although the program is in its initial development, the larger objective is to share knowledge gained across McCain’s extensive global potato grower network, enabling the rapid implementation of these learnings. Once fully established, McCain hopes this program will demonstrate the power of sustainable agriculture and connect McCain growers, customers and consumers.
  • They are pleased that over 95% of their packaging materials to date are technically recyclable. next step is to ensure 100% of their materials are recyclable according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation definition, which requires there is successful post-consumer collection, sorting, and recycling and it is proven to work in practice and at scale
  • Financial Stability They offer multi-year contracts that enable financial planning for growers over a longer period. They’re also supporting their growers with alternative potato varieties that are more resilient and pose fewer growing risks, meaning more stable and reliable incomes.
  • McCain supports its grower partners through the transfer of knowledge and technology. In 2019, nearly 70,000 hours of training was delivered by their 260 agricultural team members. Future Farmers. The question of succession planning is an important one for growers, and vital for the future of farming. In addition to helping growers’ succession plan, McCain also works with many industry bodies to help inspire the next generation of farmers. 
  • McCain initiated a global research project in partnership with an Emeritus Professor from Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands. The project will further the understanding of how weather changes in the next 30 years might affect grower partners. By gaining these important insights, McCain is ensuring it can secure the sustainable future of potato farming.
  • 18% of their growers globally are under the age of 35, up from less than 5% in 2014
  • Campo Vivo strives to improve the livelihoods of local smallholder farmers and their families. It provides education and support services to increase their yields, improves their market access by supporting the commercialization of their products, and helps them develop higher and more stable incomes for their families. It also strengthens the community by fostering associations among the farmers. After the first five years of positive social impact, Campo Vivo changed its business model to become more sustainable. To take Campo Vivo to the next level, McCain and the German investment and development institute (DEG) developed a three-year public-private partnership to scale up the positive impact on Colombian smallholder farmers.
  • In developing countries like Colombia, India, and Argentina, McCain has partnered with development agencies, NGOs, and community organizations to improve the livelihoods of smallholder growers, empower women, and provide training for unemployed youth. Their partnerships and programs support entrepreneurship, job creation, and skills development, helping to strengthen local communities and economies. In each case, tailor its efforts to specific needs and challenges. For example, in some areas, focus on equipping young people with the knowledge, outlook, and skills required for future employment. In others, address gender inequality issues, working to improve opportunities for women and adolescent girls through training and education. McCain works in partnership with Food Banks across 11 countries to help alleviate food poverty amongst the most vulnerable in their communities.
  • Project Shakti aims to drive social change and improve the livelihoods of women and adolescent girls in India, particularly by addressing gender inequality. The project lends money to women to help cover the costs of schooling and medical treatment and supports them with setting up small enterprises, such as selling snacks or running beauty parlours. Additionally, a village knowledge centre was set up to provide women and the wider community with access to computer technology.
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