There now are more than 150 McDonald's outlets in India and the number is expected to reach 200 by year’s end. The outlets are expected to consume 3,500 tons of potatoes.
More than 100 farmers are cultivating 1,500 acres of Shepody potatoes for McCain India, which expects to process 15,000 tons of potato this year. The plant has a capacity to process 40,000 tons of potatoes into 20,000 tons of fries.
The chain entered Indian in 1996 but until August 2007 every serving of French fries was imported. This year, 70 percent will be grown in India and by 2010 the figure will reach 100 percent.
It took nine years of research, trial and error to get the potato product to the standard McDonald’s wanted. Indian potato varieties tend to be low on solids and very high on water and produce fries that are limp, charred and too oily.
The Shepody variety has a high solid content and an oblong shape that is perfect for fries, but is prone to heat stress. To overcome this, the seed crop of Shepody is grown high in the Himalayas and then is shipped 625 miles to farmers in Gujarat who produce the crop that goes to a McCain factory for processing into fries.
McDonald’s in India is also unique for a menu that doesn’t offer beef or pork on its menu. Indian hamburgers are 100 percent vegetarian because India is home to the Hindu religion and believers fear the karmic consequences of harming other creatures.