June 9, 2021

Potato processing giant McCain adds to sustainability goals, updates progress

Frozen potato product giant McCain Foods recently announced an aggressive new goal in its efforts to improve its sustainability practices, as well as updated how it’s doing on some current goals.

In McCain’s 2020 Sustainability Report Summary, the company states it plans to implement “regenerative agricultural practices” for 100% of all acres that grow crop to produce its products by 2030. McCain defines regenerative agriculture through six key principles:

  • Armour soils, preferably with living plants
  • Enhance crop and ecosystem diversity
  • Ensure farm resilience
  • Integrate organic and livestock elements
  • Minimize soil disturbance
  • Reduce agro-chemical impacts and optimize water use

McCain’s potato product production network includes 3,500 farmers and 49 production plants worldwide, 16 of which are in North America. The company’s Farms of the Future project — a collaborative effort with academics and leading producers — will serve as prototypes for its long-term sustainability goals. The first Farm of the Future, announced last summer, will be in New Brunswick, Canada. McCain plans to open two more such operations by 2025.

In the report, McCain outlined its sustainability pillars — Smart & Sustainable Farming, Resource-Efficient Operation, Good Food and Thriving Communities — and shared updates on how its progressing in achieving its goals. McCain Foods President & CEO Max Koeune said, through the release, that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on the company, including the shift in demand away from foodservice toward eating at home.

Max Koeune, President & CEO of McCain Foods

“In response (to pandemic effects), we faced short-term production pauses while supporting our teams through paid temporary leaves of absence. Our farmers felt the impact too, with the prospect of millions of pounds of potatoes going to waste,” Koeune said. “Over the past year, there has been a tremendous amount of policy action across all industries in support of climate change, and a rush to set carbon neutral targets — calling for action more urgently than ever. While I’m humbled by the incredible work of our teams worldwide and the significant strides made towards achieving our Sustainability Strategy, the pandemic underscores the emphasis on the food industry and its stakeholders — furthering our resolve to act.”

Although the pandemic made the past year anything but normal, McCain reports that it made satisfactory strides toward many of its sustainability goals outlined in 2017. Some notable goals McCain reports its “on track” to meet are:

  • Making 100% of packaging recyclable by 2025
  • Ceasing coal use by 2025
  • Using 100% renewable energy in fry and appetizer plants by 2030
  • Improving water efficiency by 15% in water-stressed regions by 2025
  • Zero waste to landfill by 2025

McCain’s progress on goals for reducing CO2 emissions were less than satisfactory, by the company’s own admission. They include reducing Scope 3 CO2 emissions from operations by 30% by 2030, and reducing CO2 emissions from farming, storage and freight by 25% by 2030. Both categories saw an increase in the past year.

McCain fared a little better on reducing Scope 1 and 2 emissions from operations with a decrease of 3%.

In 2018, McCain made commitments to improving the health factors of its products in the way of reducing sodium by 15% and eliminating palm oil from frying by 2025. Sodium in McCain’s potato products has actually gone up since 2018, although it decreased slightly in its appetizer products. Palm oil usage has remained steady at since 2018 at 14%.

The full report can be found here.

— Zeke Jennings, managing editor




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