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McCain Foods SA around the world just as effectively as its US counterparts. In 1957, the first full year, figures were modest enough: 30 employees and sales of $ 152,000. Since then it has grown into a multi- billion dollar business with over 20,000 employees worldwide. Much of McCain's global growth has occurred through acquisitions and South Africa is no exception. In the late 1990s, the Government was well into its post- apartheid period and the dominant black population was taking a greater share of the country's wealth. In exactly the same way that greater personal wealth has opened up the markets in China and India, so too did greater disposable income open up the potential of South Africa. After a couple of years of serious analysis of the market and an evaluation of current suppliers, McCain Foods SA was created when in 2000, it purchased the processed foods division of Irvin & Johnson, one of South Africa's principal food processing operations. McCain is now South Africa's largest frozen food company and the market leader, having 75 per cent of the fries market and 65 per cent of all frozen foods. From its Johannesburg headquarters, its regional offices and various processing plants, 1,500 employees generate a multi- billion rand turnover. Along the way, R700 million has been invested in a new fries plant and although the process is largely automatic, with very little human involvement in the making of the frozen fries, it has still led to 300 new positions. Unlike the process for freezing raw vegetables, which are flash frozen within as short a period of time as possible after they have been harvested, the concept behind frozen fries is more akin to that of turning brewed coffee into instant coffee granules. Once incoming potatoes have gone through rock and soil removing shakers, they are washed and made ready to be steam peeled. The outer skin is loosened by injecting high pressure steam into a peeler tank and held at that temperature for approximately 20 seconds. The potatoes January 10 www. bus- ex. com 75 We are proud to be a McCain Foods partner in automation and control. AS Automation Solutions' commitment to clients, employees, its environmental responsibility and ethics are unparalleled. As a specialised food and beverage automation turnkey provider, we value working with clients like McCain whose reputation and standards help us attract new opportunities. The McCain values and commitments mirror our own. AS Automation Solutions

76 www. bus- ex. com January 10 then go through a brush equipped with many long, round strands which gently brush away the peel from the potato. Nothing goes to waste and the peel is collected to be used as cattle feed. The next stage contains the only human involvement when all spots, bruises, unpeeled or otherwise defective parts of the potatoes are trimmed and discarded. To even out the flow of raw material, the potatoes are then held in large holding tanks filled with water before going to a strip cutter. Making straight fries involves a single process of pumping the potatoes through a cross hatch of blades to give the square shape. Crinkle cut requires the potatoes to go through blades to prove the straight slices before being stamped out under wavy blades to arrive at the distinctive crinkle cut shape. Any size of fry can be made but the most popular is the quarter- inch in cross section. After being cut, the potato strips are blanched at 82° C for several minutes to destroy enzyme activity and remove some of the sugar which could result in inconsistent texture and colour. After blanching and drying, the fries go into oil at a temperature of 200° C, where they stay for anything from 30 seconds to five minutes, depending on the potato variety. Excess surface oil is shaken off on a vibrating conveyor which takes the fries to the freezer, where they are kept at a temperature of - 39° C for 20 minutes before ultimately being packed in various sizes. When stored in bags in cardboard outers at minus 23° C, the fries can be stored almost indefinitely. McCain's concentration on potatoes has some heavyweight support from the United Nations which, in 2008, declared that " the potato should be a major component in strategies aimed at providing nutritious food for the poor and hungry". Rich in carbohydrates and vitamin