McDonalds touts ties to its Oregon
November 12, 2004
By Amy Grennell, freelance writer
Capital Press Agriculture Weekly
P.O. Box 2048
Salem, Oregon 97308
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products has been important to many companies, but after
McDonald’s looked into where its food products were coming from,
the world’s largest restaurant company decided to tout its support
of local agricultural products as well.
The closer look at agricultural products the restaurant chain
purchased came after a 2003 economic impact study by Dennis
Tootelian, professor of marketing at the University of California at
Sacramento. He studied the economic impact of McDonald’s in the
Tootelian’s research measured traditional economic factors such as
the jobs, wages and taxes the company generates, but it also
analyzed the added value or the “multiplier effect” that the
business has within its supplier chain, like farm and industrial
products, as well as investments in new technology.
The company then conducted its own agricultural food product studies
among its purchasing departments.
Larry Stewart, regional purchasing manager for McDonald’s from
Alaska to Northern California and Hawaii, Montana and Idaho, said
the company began looking into how much it was buying from which
states about two years ago. Oregon was the first state to be
The company was interested in the results in dollar amounts as well
“It astounded me; we buy $1.3 million in pickles from Oregon,”
McDonald’s also buys french fries from the J.R. Simplot Co. of
Idaho. Simplot is one of the world’s largest frozen-potato
processors, annually turning out 3 billion pounds of french fries
and other potato products worldwide.
The corporation buys 320 million pounds of potatoes from Oregon, and
many of the products go throughout the world.
Japanese customers are most likely eating french fries from Idaho
and Oregon, Stewart said.
Agricultural studies were then conducted for Washington, Montana and
Idaho, but have not yet been analyzed or released.
The Oregon agricultural products study was part of the company’s
“Communities Grow with McDonald’s” campaign that includes its
economic, agricultural, educational and charitable contributions to
Oregon was the first state to use the information in a new print
advertising campaign. The current ad features Joe Eder, a cucumber
grower from Mount Angel, Oregon, who grows for Dean Specialty Foods,
a supplier of McDonald’s pickles. The ad touts McDonald’s
purchase of more than 320 million potatoes from Oregon farms.
According to Julie Edwards of Davis Elen Advertising & Public
Relations, this is a new approach for McDonald’s. The firm handles
public relations and advertising for McDonald’s in Oregon and
“This is the first time they've decided to get factual
information,” Edwards said about the study and its use in
advertising. She said many consumers have a misconception about the
corporation, but stressed it supports communities and all the
restaurants are locally owned.
Already there has been interest from other regions in doing
advertising with the agricultural component as the focus.
“The idea has taken off and there’s a lot of interest in the
study,” Stewart said.
Edwards said Idaho is interested in running ads following Oregon’s
lead. The current Oregon print ad will run through this year, with
another print ad possibly to run in 2005.
Though not every item at a McDonald’s restaurant in Oregon is
Northwest-acquired, the company has developed key relationships with
“We are very loyal to our suppliers, and they are loyal to us,”
Stewart said. “From a business standpoint we want the best price,
but we want to keep dollars in the local economy.
“We would love consumers to know the bun is made outside Seattle,
the pickle more than likely came from Mount Angel and the ketchup
came from California. It isn't being trucked in from New Jersey.”
In the Portland metro area, McDonald’s Coke products are from
Portland, Tillamook ice cream is offered and the onions are grown in
the Walla Walla, Washington, region.
“There are a lot of growers that are happy about McDonald’s,”
Stewart said. “We don't toot our horn, but we try to do the right
Annually McDonald’s purchases from Oregon …
• 1.6 million pounds of onions
• 4.5 million pounds of cucumbers
• 22,986 pounds of sweet potatoes
• 243,840 pounds of pumpkins
• 4,000 pounds of Tillamook cheese
• 320 million pounds of potatoes
• 16.5 million pounds of Northwest apples*
*From Oregon and Washington
Information from McDonald’s 2003 study
Copyright 2004, Capital Press Agriculture Weekly.