50 for 50: The J.R. Simplot Company

Published online: Jan 04, 2021 Articles, 50 for 50
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Throughout 2021, as part of Potato Grower’s celebration of our 50th year in publication, we will be honoring in our pages and on our website 50 of the potato industry’s most innovative and influential individuals, companies and organizations over the past half-century. This “50 for 50” series will include researchers, salesmen, packers, processors and, of course, plenty of potato growers. A lot of them will be names you’ve heard before. To some, you’ll get a fresh introduction. Regardless, each has had an outsize impact on the U.S. potato industry, and each deserves our thanks and recognition.

The J.R. Simplot Company

The J.R. Simplot Company began to take shape in the farm fields of southern Idaho in the late 1920s. Young J.R. was armed with keen entrepreneurial instincts, constant curiosity, boundless energy and an irrepressible drive. Through the years, J.R.’s belief in the promise of the possible helped him diversify his efforts into a global food and agriculture business. 

From the very beginning, J.R. believed that making something grow meant seeing opportunity where others saw obstacles. That served him well when he was sorting potatoes for Idaho farmers in the 1930s, feeding the troops in World War II, and introducing the world to the first marketable frozen french fry. 

Still privately held and headquartered in Boise, Idaho, Simplot has grown into an international agribusiness company that operates in more than 60 countries with 13,000 employees worldwide. The company is a leading innovator in plant nutrition and food processing, researches new ways to feed animals and sustain ecosystems, and works with farmers and partners to help feed a growing global population. The company’s integrated portfolio includes farming, ranching and cattle production, food processing, food brands, phosphate mining, fertilizer manufacturing, and other enterprises related to agriculture. Simplot’s major operations in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, Australia, Argentina and China provide a diverse array of products and services to people around the world.

Simplot works with more than 200 growers worldwide to produce 5 billion pounds of raw potatoes on more than 100,000 acres of farmland. The company understands that the connection between its business efforts and the communities it serves goes well beyond customer and supplier. Simplot is dedicated to its employees and growing partners and the places they call home. The pillars of the company—passion for people, spirit of innovation, and respect for resources—are as relevant now as they were when J.R. began his journey 90 years ago, and its dedication to making things grow is as strong as ever.