Wallace McCain

WALLACE McCain, who co-founded the world’s largest producer of frozen chips and was a noted philanthropist has died aged 81.

The billionaire Canadian founder of the McCains Foods empire, whose British base is in Scarborough, and his brother Harrison turned a small plant making French fires into a business which became renowned globally for its oven chips and frozen pizzas.

The company they started in 1957 in Florenceville, New Brunswick, now operates in 44 countries and produces more frozen oven-ready chips than any other company in the world.

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In 1968, McCain opened its first UK plant in Scarborough making it the country’s first place their products could be bought outside Canada.

It was chosen because of the large number of potato growers in the area, and by 2002 it was processing an average of 1,200 tonnes of potatoes a day.

In 1994, Wallace McCain was forced out of the company after a bitter family feud over who would take over the company. A year later he bought Maple Leaf Foods, a Toronto-based food producer and under his supervision the company grew to more than 21,000 employees, and is now run by his son Michael.

George Wallace Ferguson McCain was born in Canada, the youngest son of AD McCain, a potato seed exporter and founder of McCain Produce. Wallace was descended from a long line of Irish potato farmers who emigrated to Canada in 1825.

He graduated from Mount Allison University in 1952 and joined Green Grass Insecticides as a salesman, He then moved to a hardware company rising to be general manager before he and his brother went into frozen foods.

Wallace McCain and is wife had strong family and work values. He often worked 18-hour days but made every effort to be with his family each day for breakfast and dinner. He also scheduled trips abroad so he could be at home at the weekends.

Mr McCain was a noted philanthropist in Canada, fundraising for the Canadian National Ballet School, and establishing an entrepreneur training institute in his name at New Brunswick University where he had once been a student. “I liked making money, but I love giving it away even more,” he once said.

His philanthropy also extends to the UK where McCains have for many years sponsored the resort’s annual cricket festival held at Scarborough Cricket Club’s North Marine Road ground, and are also now one of the club’s partners in the recent rejuvenation of the ground.

They also sponsor the town’s football club and gave their name to the now disused Seamer Road stadium.

In 1995 Mr McCain was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest honours.

Bill Bartlett, corporate affairs director for McCain Foods GB, said: “Wallace was an inspirational leader and has left an enduring legacy that now extends far beyond the Canadian roots of the company.

“Through the vision and leadership of Wallace and his brother Harrison, McCain Foods has gone from small beginnings to a business that now provides employment for thousands worldwide and has provided millions of pounds to support local communities, both in the UK and around the world.”

Mr McCain was married in 1955 to Margaret Norrie whose father founded the Malartic Gold Mines. She and their four children survive him.