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French fry king dies

JR Simplot, the man who helped make French fries a staple of the American diet and waistline, died at the age of 99. 

by: Reuters: Shea Andersen | 28 May 2008

He was the billionaire founder of the Idaho-based agriculture business that bears his name, the JR Simplot Company. Commonly referred to as Simplot.

After pioneering the first commercial frozen French fry in the late 1940s, Simplot eventually became a major supplier of Idaho potatoes to McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's. His privately held company, where he was chairman emeritus, reported $3.3 billion in sales in 2006.

He started his first produce company in 1929 at the age of 20, and eventually became a major supplier of dehydrated potatoes to the US military during World War II.

In the late 1940s, Simplot's researchers began experimenting with frozen potato products. His company began producing frozen French fries in Idaho in 1946 and the business thrived with the spread of freezers into American homes.

In 1967, Simplot and McDonald's founder Ray Kroc shook hands and agreed that the Simplot Company would provide frozen French fries to the expanding fast-food chain.

The post war spread of processed American fast food has had a significant impact on the nation's health, with the popularity of such food contributing to an obesity epidemic.

A well-known figure in Boise, Idaho, Simplot was often seen driving through town in a Lincoln Town Car with license plates that read "MR SPUD."

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