Interview
May 28, 2024

McCain's Leading Regenerative Ag Program

Interview
May 28, 2024

McCain's Leading Regenerative Ag Program

Interview
May 28, 2024

McCain's Leading Regenerative Ag Program

Interview
May 2024

McCain's Leading Regenerative Ag Program

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If you’ve ever ended up in a McDonald's, Burger King or Shake Shack, you would’ve enjoyed a McCain French Fry.. but did you know that McCain’s is on a mission to reinvent the humble potato?

How you may ask? By implementing regenerative agriculture across 100% of their potato acreage.

This week, we caught up with Audrey Leduc, the North American Director for Planet Friendly Practices at McCain Foods. McCain Foods is the undisputed king of frozen fries (with ¼ of all global fries coming from their fields!).

Audrey's background in both supply chain optimisation and storytelling makes her the perfect leader for this mission. She's not just implementing regenerative practices – she's weaving a compelling narrative around McCain's "regen fries". Here’s how she’s doing it…

First, let’s just recap… What is regenerative agriculture?

Regenerative agriculture is, essentially, an ecosystem-based approach to farming. It improves soil health, and increases biodiversity and yield while reducing synthetic inputs like pesticides. McCains is going ALL IN on regenerative agriculture which makes sense… healthier soil leads to more nutritious potatoes.

McCain’s isn’t just looking inwards; they're reaching out to their competitors, recognising that a healthy, resilient potato supply chain benefits everyone. Collaboration across the industry is crucial for regenerative agriculture to succeed at scale.

Collaboration best practice:

  • “Turn up with strange bedfellows”: Bring competitors along to help create system change. E.g. If you're a first mover, use your momentum to bring your competitors along. Share best practices openly.
  • “Avoid the Cinderella syndrome”: Don’t wait until midnight to start building relationships. Build strong relationships with governments, customers, and growers early on for holistic success.

*Learnings from Audrey’s lobbying days

Audrey’s farmer engagement toolbox:

Getting farmers on board is essential, yet easier said than done. Here's how McCain's is making regenerative agriculture attractive:

  • Seeing is believing: McCain established "Farms of the Future" in Canada and South Africa to experiment and showcase the benefits of regenerative agriculture. They have committed to expanding "Innovation Hubs" across North America to tailor practices to specific regions.

They host "field days" where neighbouring growers can visit, share experiences, and learn from each other. Farmers trust the insights of their peers, not a corporate hotshot.

  • Measuring what matters: The McCain Regenerative Agriculture Framework provides a roadmap for transitioning to regenerative practices. It outlines key metrics to track progress, like biodiversity, water, resilience, risk mitigation, cost reduction, pesticide, and fertiliser. Having a holistic measurement approach provides more opportunity for “positive data” to demonstrate progress.
  • Easy access to financial support: The upfront costs of regenerative agriculture can be daunting. McCain's is tackling this head-on with:

- Grants: A dedicated team secures grants to support farmers. Last year, they allocated $9 million in federal funds for sustainable farming initiatives. McCain ensures that grants are easy to understand to make financial assistance simple and accessible to all.

- Financial incentives: McCain partners with financial organisations like Farm Credit Canada, Credit Agricole, Rabo Bank and Natwest to help link up farmers with green lending schemes.

- Customer partnerships: McCain nurtures partnerships with customers to offer cost-sharing grants that help farmers scale up their regenerative practices.

This is where the power storytelling aspect comes to life.

  • B2B: Create demand with your customers e.g., McCain partnered with McDonald's on a million-dollar future potato regenerative farming fund for Canadian growers. Pick your customers wisely. In this case, it was an easy sell to McDonald’s, where the potato is also a hero ingredient - just imagine the outrage if McDonald’s ran out of fries…
  • B2C: Consider how you can frame your product to the consumer to drive engagement e.g., “regenerative fries”!

McCain has brought their storytelling to life with an innovative metaverse campaign. Partnering with Roblox, they created a regenerative agriculture game where players virtually plant potatoes and learn about regenerative agriculture practices. They also partnered with the restaurant Bored and Hungry, allowing players to enjoy the very "regen potatoes" they planted in the metaverse in real life.  This immersive experience, with over 2.6 billion game visits, demonstrates the power of thinking outside the box to drive engagement.

Interested in hearing more? Listen to the full conversation here.

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