Best of 2016: The Story of India’s First Large-Scale Lettuce Farms


McDonalds India Iceberg LettuceEach time you bite into your favourite McVeggie Burger, aren’t you thrilled to get the fresh taste of lettuce? It’s no ordinary lettuce but the Iceberg variety which comes all the way from the cool mountains of the Nilgiris in South India.

It was in 1996 that Ooty Farms and Orchards, now known as Green Earth Fresh Produce, entered into a collaboration with McDonald’s to be the first supplier of iceberg lettuce to the food chain. Later, two other companies joined the fray.

From a mere 100 tonnes worth of supply for only half the year, the supply of this much-needed ingredient has gone up to nearly 1,250 tonnes a year today. With McDonald’s having grown to 400+ outlets in the country, the demand for lettuce has naturally grown by 25 per cent, year-on-year.

It’s the special Nilgiris’ soil that provides the Iceberg lettuce the crunchy and unique texture and taste. No wonder, a Mac burger leaves you with an unforgettable taste.

An Indian success story, Green Earth Fresh Produce is run by a first-generation entrepreneur C Magesh Kumar. A Maths graduate, Magesh discovered his love for horticulture in the mid 90s. After experimenting with many vegetables/fruits, he zeroed-in on lettuce and the McDonald family.

“I travelled to meet the Big Mac guys and bag the deal. The challenging part was in convincing them that we could supply them the quality produce they needed.” What started off with just 10 acres has now grown into 100 acres spread at four places – Kookalthorai, Thoraihatty, Chinna Coonoor and Coonoor – engaging about 100 contract farmers.

Green Earth Fresh Produce churns out 1,250 tonnes of Iceberg lettuce a year of which, 90 per cent is supplied to McDonalds. Talking of localisation, it’s interesting to note that it was in 2001 that the process of localisation of all the equipment that goes into the kitchen to build a McDonald’s burger, started.


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