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Frozen Food Pioneer Wallace McCain Dies

Posted On: 5/16/2011

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Wallace McCain, McCain Foods, food service, French fry, frozen food

TORONTO -- Wallace McCain, frozen food industry legend, died here on May 13 following a 14-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 81.

McCain cofounded McCain Foods in 1956 with his brother, Harrison McCain. Together they built the Canadian company into one of the world's largest frozen food manufacturers.

Sons of a potato seed exporter, the brothers initially focused their business on French fry production. As frozen food technology emerged, they acquired European and American businesses, expanding into the frozen pizza, vegetable and fish-processing markets.

Today, McCain Foods, with a reported $6 billion (Canadian) in annual sales, operates in 44 countries and produces more frozen French fries than any other company in the world. According to the company's figures, one in every three French fries consumed around the world is produced by McCain Foods, including those sold in many McDonald's and KFC outlets.

Wallace was forced out of McCain Foods' day-to-day operations in the early 1990s following a public feud with his brother over who should succeed them at the helm of the family business. Wallace wanted his son Michael to take control of the company, while Harrison favored bringing in outside executives and ultimately prevailed.

Wallace remained vice-chairman with a one-third stake in McCain Foods. In 1995, he took over meat processor Maple Leaf Foods and appointed his son to lead the organization. Maple Leaf has since become Canada's biggest supplier of packaged meats.

Forbes Magazine listed Wallace McCain as No. 512 on the 2011 list of the world's billionaires, estimating his personal net worth at $2.3 billion.