Michael McCain, CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, is handing over the reins.
In an announcement, Canada’s largest meat producer said McCain had been appointed executive chair of the board and would continue as CEO for the next year as part of the management transition plan. Curtis Frank, president and CEO, will step into the CEO role next spring.
Born in Florenceville, N.B., McCain spent his whole career in the food industry, starting at McCain Foods in the late 1970s. He held a variety of roles, including president and CEO of McCain Foods USA. In 1995, McCain and his family (under McCain Capital Corporation) and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan acquired Maple Leaf Foods.
In the succession announcement, Maple Leaf Foods credited McCain with leading the company “through decades of transformation, from foundation building in the early years, to reshaping the business portfolio, rebuilding supply chains, reinvigorating brands and ultimately pivoting to growth, supported by a progressive vision to become the most sustainable protein company on earth.”
Maple Leaf Foods announced that vision in 2015, with a strategy that included everything from reducing its environmental footprint to treating animals better and improving food quality.
In recent years, the company aggressively invested in plant-based protein products, but the company is reassessing that business, as sales have stalled.
McCain is also well known for his response to a deadly listeria outbreak in 2008, linked to cold cuts from a Maple Leaf Foods plant in Toronto. He quickly appeared in a TV spot issuing a heartfelt apology, and was able to regain consumer trust and save the company’s reputation.
Frank has been with Maple Leaf Foods for 21 years, joining shortly after university and rising through the ranks over the years. He has been president and COO since 2018.
At the company’s recent annual general meeting, McCain said his successor “is a living embodiment of our leadership values, embracing the human side of leadership and delivering the results required to succeed in our progressive organization.”
McCain went on to say that while he’s stepping down as CEO, his efforts as executive chair “will shift into a new capacity more heavily oriented to strategy, stewardship, oversight, and guidance,” he said. “As Maple Leaf Foods' largest and operating shareholder, the McCain family is not going anywhere. We have deep roots in the food industry and in this business, and we are fully committed to Maple Leaf from my generation to the next.”