June 13th, 2024

McCain investing $600 million to double Coaldale operation

By Lethbridge Herald on March 13, 2023.

McCain foods has announced a $600 million investment toward doubling the size of its operation east of Coaldale. Herald file photo by Ian Martens

Erika Mathieu – SOUTHERN ALBERTA NEWSPAPERS – ssnews@sunnysouthnews.com

McCain foods has announced a $600 million investment in southern Alberta which it says will double the size of the Coaldale McCains facility and bring hundreds of new jobs to the region.

McCain Foods president and CEO Max Koeune said the development in Alberta is the largest-ever investment in McCain’s 65-year history and will support Canadian producers and through the company’s commitment, “the future of agriculture and innovation in Canada.”

Koeune said the expansion in Coaldale will, “will fuel continued growth for the business, allowing us to serve key markets further by bringing customers high quality potatoes that begin with our dedicated local farming community.”

The company says the project will create two new production lines, one for French fries and one for other frozen potato specialty products. Once completed, the expansion is expected to create 260 new jobs, more than doubling the facility’s current workforce.

“We are projecting strong volume growth over the next five years and need this expansion to accommodate the expected growth,” said Koeune in an emailed statement.

Koeune attributed part of the expected growth to continued recovery in the restaurant and hospitality sector. Demand for French fries and other frozen potato products collapsed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on in-person dining.

The expansion also speaks to the company’s confidence in the future of Canadian agriculture, Koeune said. The company has contracts with Alberta potato farmers, the majority of them in the Lethbridge region, to supply the Coaldale facility.

“Doubling our production capacity in Coaldale will bolster strong relationships with our farmers today and into the future,” Koeune said.

According to McCain, the implementation of new technology in the Coaldale also aligns with the company’s commitments to sustainable practices including goals to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half across global operations by 2030. Renewable sources such as wind and solar will provider the Coaldale site with 100 per cent renewable energy. Further sustainable practices will include the implementation of a water recycling system which will produce potable water to be used in the manufacturing process. As well, efforts will be made to utilize and transport renewable biogas to steam boilers to help offset natural gas demands on site.

Coaldale mayor Jack Van Rijn applauded the company’s announcement and noted, “having a significant employer like McCain’s on Coaldale’s doorstep brings a number of important spinoffs to our community.  This expansion will benefit our retail and service sectors; supportive industries like trades and manufacturing; and our housing developments.”

The existing processing facility east of Coaldale has been in operation since 2000. As of 2023, the site provides jobs for 225 people and supporting southern Alberta potato farmers. The historic investment is expected to result in the creation of over 260 jobs, more than doubling the workforce to 485 hourly and salaried employees once the new additions are fully operational. The construction on the facilities is set to begin later this year, and will see the creation of two new “state-of-the-art” production lines. 

McCain representatives could not offer confirmation of a firm timeline of when the Coaldale expansion would be operational. 

In anticipation of the new positions, Van Rijn said Town Council “will make the availability of housing a top priority,” in the coming months.

Van Rijn said the Town will continue to, “work closely with our good neighbours, Lethbridge County, through the Lethbridge Water Commission, to ensure proper infrastructure is in place to accommodate this major expansion.”

Lethbridge County reeve Tory Campbell reaffirmed the County’s commitment to working with municipal partners in the region and the Province, “to insure we continue to build and maintain the infrastructure capacity needed to attract investment to Southern Alberta.”

Ongoing advocacy efforts are underway at every level to ensure the region is equipped with the infrastructure needed to cement Canada’s Premier Food Corridor as an integral piece in the global agri-processing supply chain. As municipal and regional efforts continue to gain support from Federal and Provincial governments to support projects and include a nearly $1 billion investment into irrigation expansion in Alberta, as well as improved highway infrastructure, municipal and provincial tax incentive programs have come online within the year to make the region more competitive for attracting investment. Both Lethbridge County and The Town of Coaldale have passed a commercial/industrial tax incentive bylaws in recent months.

Reeve Campbell said McCain’s investment will have a significant impact on the local economy and producers. 

“We believe there is great opportunity here in Lethbridge County and in southern Alberta for agri-food and value added processing.”

Van Rijn said the expansion of McCain Foods, “is the first step of helping to make Highway 3 the premier Agri-Food processing corridor of the world. As a municipal official, I offer much thanks to the Province of Alberta and our MLA, Grant Hunter, for making southern Alberta an economic priority.”

Acknowledging there is still much to be done on the Highway 3 twinning front, Van Rijn offered, “(the Province’s) efforts to pledge funding to twin Highway 3 and to invest in irrigation infrastructure in the south is beginning to pay big dividends.”

Campbell said, “today’s announcement re-affirms that we’re on the right track.”

– with files from The Canadian Press

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Southern Albertan

One might wonder about the impact of more irrigated potato acres on the water supply. There had better be hope that the supply can uphold this expansion with regard to the impact of climate change on our waters. Maybe the Smith UCP would favour more water for potato production as opposed to increased water needs for open pit coal mining.


you have raised some reasonable concerns. i am not sure how much water increased potato farming and the further processing will require, but it is important that those numbers are crunched so that we can determine sustainability. mind you, whether it be smith and the ucp or any other party, i have really not seen near enough action around sustainability trumping much of anything. keep in mind the issues we face today are issues we have been aware of, at least acutely, for well over 30 years already.