Simplot Caldwell Potato Plant

2949 CLUI photo.

J.R. Simplot Company, a privately held agribusiness company headquartered in Boise, Idaho, supplies one third of the French fries sold in the U.S., including roughly 40 percent of McDonald’s demand. In the 1950s, Simplot invested in frozen food technology, developing an innovative process that enabled McDonald’s to replace its labor-intensive fresh cut French fries with dried, flash-frozen fries manufactured in bulk at JR Simplot’s Caldwell plant. The resulting savings made French fries the most profitable item on the fast food chain’s menu, fueling McDonald’s expansion over the next decade from 725 restaurants to more than 3,000.

Idaho is the single largest potato producing state in the U.S., producing nearly 34 percent of the nation’s harvest, one third of which is destined to become French fries. J. R. Simplot began dehydrating operations on the Caldwell site in 1941, before the conversion to processing frozen French fries, potato nuggets, and hash browns. In 2014, Simplot plans to close this facility, along with its Nampa and Aberdeen potato plants. The three plants will be replaced by one large (380,000 square feet), purpose-built plant, currently under construction on the current Caldwell site.

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