McCain Foods Supplier Diversity Program: More than Skin Deep
McCain Foods was founded in Florenceville, New Brunswick, Canada in 1957 by Harrison and Wallace McCain. The company is the largest potato processor in the world, and a leader in frozen food production as well. With 50 factories around the world, it’s processing facilities are found on six continents and generates worldwide sales of $6 billion CDN.
McCain has been a global supplier to McDonald’s restaurants for over 30 years. Today, the McCain/McDonald’s relationship still runs deep: McCain Foods is the largest worldwide supplier of French fries to McDonald’s. In fact, one in every three French fries consumed around the world are from McCain.
McCain has a history of working with minority growers. According to Calvin Eakins, McCain’s supplier diversity manager, the company relies on its Potato Farmers Initiative to locate minority white and sweet potato growers.
Calvin Eakins has a lot of experience in supplier diversity. Before being hired by McCain to grow their diversity spend and increase their exposure to diversity suppliers, Calvin worked in supplier development and diversity at ConAgra Foods in Omaha, NE and served as the Board Chairman of the Great Plains MSDC. Currently, minority growers make-up 50% of the company’s diversity spend. McCain’s goal is to increase its minority supplier spend to 5% over the next two to three years.
Eakins has found that there is some resistance among minority growers to become certified, which is part of the criteria McCain uses to evaluate them as suppliers. The growers believe that companies that work with growers, like McCain, ConAgra, and Simplot, will contract the acreage to grow their products without their having to make the disclosures essential for certification. Eakins is hoping that assistance from the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC) will help make the growers aware of the benefits and the value of certification.
Outside of the grower population, there are many other minority suppliers who have become familiar with McCain Foods and are becoming more interested in doing business with them. Jackie Dyess, President of Inter-City Supply Co. wanted to know more about McCain Foods and was convinced there had to be an opportunity for an Inter- City-McCain collaboration.
“Afterall, toilet paper is an essential supply and Inter-City has the best toilet paper available,” said Jackie Dyess. “I had to demonstrate to McCain how it could save money and gain efficiencies. Although our first approach to Calvin was unsuccessful, we did not get discouraged.”
Inter-City went out to McCain’s plants and interviewed their people. When they felt that had enough information about McCain and its needs, they presented the company with a detailed budget.To make sure they fulfill their contract on time and on budget, Inter-City created three distribution centers that gave them valuable proximity to McCain plants.
Persistence, coupled with research, knowledge gathering and infrastructure improvements allowed Inter-City to land a contract with McCain Foods and make it a success.
“It’s crucial that a company does its homework and studies its potential customer to determine how best to provide what a company needs,” notes Bruce Fleisher of Inter-City Supply. “Calvin opened doors at McCain so we could talk to staff and get the information we needed to create an effective plan.”
“That’s the kind of thinking I expect MBEs to bring to the table,” says Eakins. “Bring ideas; be creative. Do more than just tell me what your goods and prices are. Jackie Dyess was the first MBE to approach me with ideas about working with McCain when I joined the Chicago MSDC Council.”
As Eakins will admit, timing is everything and he encourages MBE’s to be patient. But rest assured, supplier diversity at McCain Foods has the unequivocal support of senior management.