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McCain: a very continental name.

McCain: A Very Continental Name

For more than 20 years now, McCain has been a force to reckon with in Europe. After securing production operations in Britain during the late 1960s, the first continental plant was established in the heart of Dutch potato-growing country by the mid-70s. From there McCain had close access to the EEC and a solid platform from which to expand.

The rest, as they say, is history. The McCain brand is now No. 1 in the European frozen potato segment, boasting a strong presence in every major market including Germany, France, Belgium, Spain and Italy. In addition to french fries and a host of value added potatoes, the product line features vegetables, juices, pizza, ready meals, snacks, fish items and soup.

Heading up McCain in Europe is Paul van der Wel, a veteran chief executive officer. With some 30% of the multi-national company's $2.7 billion (Canadian) in revenues this year coming from European accounts, he is presently in charge of the single largest territory in volume terms.

The Netherlands

McCain Foods has three factories in the Netherlands and three in Belgium. Those in the Netherlands produce a complete range of frozen potato products for both the retail and catering trades. A major $25 million investment is now being made to upgrade production of Hoofddorf and double output at the Keizer BV subsidiary in Waspik. The latter, a frozen vegetable and spud processor, sells to Middle East and Far East buyers as well as EEC clients.

Keizer is the largest Dutch producer, distributor and exporter of a wide range of quick-frozen vegetable and potato products. Fruit is also included in the Keizer range, which goes to the market under a single name and the slogan "Top quality in quick-frozen products".

A large number of Dutch companies are active in the above sector, which is directly derived from agriculture and market gardening. And for almost all of them, big and small, export is a strong point. In this branch of industry too, producing for foreign markets is a specialty. For the last 15 years, Keizer has been exporting its products to more than 40 countries. In the UK, Germany and France - major markets for the company - sales continue to go from strength to strength.

Elsewhere within the European Community, Spain, Portugal and Greece are seen as having considerable potential, while looking even further afield, Keizer is doing good business in the Middle East, and finding that Japan's quality-conscious culture is particularly receptive to the high profile of the Keizer range.

Part of Keizer's strength lies in the fast delivery times which result from an automated system, plus the cultivation and harvesting of a large number of products by their own personnel, which means that freshness, top quality and thorough checks for disease, etc. are a matter of course. Keizer does all the sowing, harvesting and grading of the fresh products. The advanced communication system between harvesting machines and factories means that the interval between the time of harvesting and the processing to quick-frozen is never more than four or five hours. In other words, if it looks as if time is going to be lost, instructions are given by telephone to work faster. That speed and the correct processing ensure that no vitamins or quality whatsoever are lost. In fact, it even takes longer for fresh vegetables to arrive in the shops than for them to be quick frozen at Keizer.

Keizer has 292 employees and processes between 40 and 50 tons to fresh vegetables annually (mainly spinach, peas, and various sorts of beans), in addition to about 100,000 tons of potatoes to make chips, croquettes, creamed potatoes and other derivative products. Fruit is mostly purchased elsewhere and then repacked in Waspik.

Some 85% of the total production is exported. Two-thirds of this is sold within the EEC, while the remainder goes practically all over the world. Factories and cold-stores are fitted with state-of-the-art technology, and there are continuous investments in equipment modernization.

One of the main reasons for Keizer's fast delivery times is the commissioning of what is by far the most modern cold storage warehouse in Europe, equipped with the latest technological innovations. The ample 56,000 square meter building provides space for 1,176 block pallets and 4,116 Euro-pallets. Fifteen pallets an hour are brought in automatically around the clock, while 30 pallets an hour are conveyed out 12 hours a day. Automatic order picking continues to function as normal during the night. The distribution store is 24 meters high and seven-high stacking is no problem. The pallets are loaded and wrapped to vehicle height.

In this way, each separate pallet can be loaded with product in specific accordance with the customer's requirements. Transport is done over road, but also by water. Waspik is very central with a good infrastructure, and the speed of transport is very important. Contracted shippers and agents are engaged in various countries.

Keizer's main customers are bulk users such as hospitals, institutions and the wholesalers who purchase for supermarkets. The frozen food market is still expanding, although shifts naturally take place. Each country has its own individual customs, however, and Keizer is quick to take advantage of these.

H. A. van Tuyl BV of Gameren is another McCain unit, having been acquired along with subsidiary Potato International BV less than two years ago. The trading company is a major player in Germany's pre-packaged potato market. Potato International is involved in the export of Dutch table potatoes. Volume sales between the two concerns amounts to about 100,000 tons annually.


Two of McCain's operations in Belgium are frozen food plants - one for potatoes and the other for ready meals. Some 30% of the Benelux output is exported to Germany, Italy and Scandinavia. The diversified range of potato products runs the gamut from regular fries to pommes croquettes and from potato waffles to dollar chips.

But there's a lot more than spuds coming out of the country. The Sunnyland Division of McCain Foods Belgium is bottling a range of McCain Sunland Light Nectars in orange, exotic and cherry flavors. The calorie-reduced products are sold in .75 liter bottles which sport an exclusive design.

In addition, a separate Sunland nectar pack range features orange, lemon-orange, orange-apricot, orange-peach, apple-cherry and pineapple-grapefruit flavors in aseptic packaging. The offerings are available in one liter and 200 ml (lemon-orange, apple-cherry) sizes.

The McCain Frima Division of McCain Foods Belgium NV is packing a number of frozen dishes. Among them are Chili con Carne; Chop Suey; Risotto la Milanese with chicken and peas; Marina with seafood; Tropica with chicken and pineapple. Preparation time is only eight minutes in either a conventional oven or microwave unit.


The french fry may have originated in France, but it took an outside company, McCain, to pioneer and build a growing market for a frozen processed product with the benefits of greater convenience, equal quality and all year 'round consistency.

McCain Alimentaire has expanded greatly since its $27 million factory came on line in Harnes (northern France) in 1981. Just two years ago an additional $25 million was invested to bring capacity up to 130,000 tons of fries per year.

The project also included the construction of a modern potato grading station to process 100 tons an hour, and a major expansion of the waste water treatment plant.

The Harnes facility is described by Managing Director Gilles Leonard as "a modern and efficient plant which will help to increase our share of the market in continental Europe."

McCain Alimentaire's new product introductions in recent years have been positively received by the trade. Among the ready meal ranges is the seven-item Carte Legere de la Mer (light fish range), which features cod, trout, sole, salmon and haddock. The Menu a l'Italienne (Italian Menu) serves up cannelloni and two types of lasagna meals. Most come in 400 and 800 gram packs, while lasagna with selected vegetables comes in a 330 gram size.

On the potato side, Frites Pleine Saveur offers the flavor of homemade fries in just three minutes' preparation time. A family-oriented line is Les Classiques, including pomme noisette, pomme rissole, pomme saute and galette paillasson. Four festive potato specialties are included under the Les Gourmandes line, namely: pommes dauphines, mini-croquettes, pommes duchesse and pom snacks.

And Les Gourmandes products are packaged in a 600 gram size as well as the galette paillasson. The other three Les Classiques products are available in a one kilogram size.

Also worthy of note is the line that includes Frites Legeres, featuring a special oven fry with less oil; Frites Golden Longues, a modern fast food fry; and Frites Tradition, a fry with a more full-bodied potato flavor.

The French retail market is being supplied with salt-free products from McCain Frima NV of Belgium. Packed under the Carte Legere label are: chicken with orange and rice; turkey with vegetables and rice; filleted haddock in bordelaise sauce with puree. These products are also available in Belgium as part of the Light Menu line.

Dual-ovenable meals sold in France under the Carte Delice label feature cod, roast pork, salmon, chicken, trout and beef tongue. Four other products are creamed endives soup, Belgian endives in cream sauce, mixed vegetables in cream sauce and trout souffle with watercress cream sauce and rice.

Beau Marais

Beau Marais, a cooperative acquired by McCain in 1986 and turned into a corporation, is based at Bethune in the North of France, where the managing director Francis Dupont is in charge of about 300 employees.

The company produces about 65,000 tons a year of frozen potato products, including french fries, cubes, noisettes, rissolees, dauphines, duchesses, triettes, sautees and croquettes. The market includes both retail (chains such as Carrefour, Auchan and Intermarche, plus freezer centers and home delivery services) and the catering sector.

Beau Marais also produces about 14,000 tons a year of dehydrated potato flakes - 85% of which are sold within France and the rest exported to Belgium, Italy, England and Spain. Both regular and milk versions are now available, with major chains carrying them in 125, 375, 500 and 1,000-gram boxes. Five, 10, 20 and 25-kilogram versions are available for the food service market.

For the last five years, the company has pursued an internal quality project - the aim of which is to reach the zero defect level in its products.


McCain entered the retail frozen food market in the Federal Republic of Germany through Frankfurt-based McCain GmbH in 1978. The first product launch, McCain 1.2.3 Frites (oven fries) proved to be a spectacular success. Since then McCain has step by step successfully expanded its retail lines in frozen potato products and grown to become market leader in this expanding business.

In Germany, potatoes have traditionally been a very popular meal accompaniment. Alongside french fries is another product sector - frozen potato specialities which are a smaller but very dynamic sub-market. Its growth rate far outstrips that of total frozen foods.

Staying on tops of this segment with innovative introductions, McCain's offerings have included 1.2.3 Mandel-balchen and Sesamballchen. The potato ball products are formulated for oven cooking. The former features a coating made of almond bits, while the latter is covered with sesame seeds.

McCain can take full credit for creating the oven chip market in Germany during the late 1970s when its revolutionary 1.2.3 Frites was introduced. Prior to that the market was saturated with french fries prepared exclusively for deep fat frying. McCain's oven preparation concept radically changed the retail scene.

A look at recent history points the way. Following on the success of 1.2.3 Frites, 1.2.3 Chef Frites were introduced with a crisp, wavy cut, appealing again to new consumers and attracting new users. The company's market share rose by leaps and bounds with this innovation, strengthening its position.

McCain also triggered the croquette boom in Germany, creating that market from scratch. Since the unveiling of 1.2.3 Kroketten in 1983, the product line has been expanded to multiple pack offerings, ranging from 16 count/350 gram packages to 24/672 g to 35-37/1,000 g.

Sales are up dramatically for McCain in Germany. This can be attributed to three main factors: smart marketing; a rising frozen food market in general; and the country's political reunification, which has brought 16.6 million new consumers into the free market system.

McCain began selling to eastern Germany in earnest on July 1, 1990. That is when the Deutschmark became the official currency for all Germans. Results have been pleasing so far, though it is difficult to quantify sales volume in the east as distribution is often handled from Hanover, Dusseldorf and other cities in the western region. But the fact that McCain products are on the shelves in abundance is plain to see. And the company's sales force is working hard to promote the line further among binging consumers hungry for satisfying dining experiences after almost 50 years of food shortages.


McCain started its operation in Spain in 1977, when its Burgos factory came on stream. Burgos, one of the country's most important potato growing areas, is also ideally situated near other key growing areas and well placed to serve the major markets.

From the start, McCain Espana has used its own considerable temperature and humidity controlled potato storage. This storage was key, because Spanish growers do not have such facilities.

There was no existing frozen french fry market in Spain, so McCain's initial launch was hampered on two counts. First the product concept was, of course, totally new to consumers. Secondly, within the major markets, such as hotels and restaurants, etc., the systems needed to handle this product properly did not exist.

Nonetheless, McCain successfully introduced frozen french fries, primarily in the catering sector, and specifically in the key tourist areas like Costa del Sol, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands. Subsequently, the growth of the major fast food chains in Spain promoted development of the product type within the catering sector.

Apart from frozen french fries and other potato-based products (like mashed potato, potato croquettes and potato bites, etc.). McCain is involved with many other breaded products, both fish and meat (like meat fingers), chicken bites, cheese and ham portions, hamburgers, meat balls, fish fingers, fish portions, fish cakes, etc. These products have helped the development of the major product line - frozen french fries - in that they have enabled McCain to provide a better service to wholesalers and consumers.

As regards the retail sector, McCain french fries have been very well received despite the fact that consumption remains limited to certain areas because of distribution problems. This results from the enormous fragmentation prevalent within the retail trade.

Nevertheless, McCain enjoys a presence in the majority of national chains and in many of the key independent supermarkets.

A separate factory in Burgos manufactures meat, fish and potato products. These items are targeted primarily at the catering sector.

PHOTO : The McCain Sunnyland Division of McCain Foods Belgium NV packs McCain Turtles fruit drinks. The 100 per cent natural beverages are available in orange, apple and tropical flavors. McCain Sunnyland holds an exclusive Turtles license for the Benelux market.

PHOTO : Keizer's frozen vegetable and potato range is trucked to customers throughout Europe.

PHOTO : McCain's extensive line of frozen potato products has something for everyone

PHOTO : McCain Sunland Light Nectars are available in orange, exotic and cherry flavors.

PHOTO : The Harnes factory can produce more than 130,000 tons of french fries per year.

PHOTO : Packed by McCain Frima and sold in France under the Carte Delice label are cod, roast pork, salmon, chicken, trout and beef tongue dishes.

PHOTO : 1.2.3 Mandelballchen features potato balls with an almond bits coating.

PHOTO : McCain's 1.2.3 Sesamballchen is coated in almond bits and sesame seeds.

PHOTO : Italian dishes in the McCain Oven Meal line in Germany include Lasagne, Tortellini and Canelloni.
COPYRIGHT 1991 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Section: Canada's International Frozen Food Company; McCain Foods Ltd.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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