The J. R. Simplot Company, commonly referred to as Simplot, was founded in 1923 by 14-year-old J. R. Simplot near the small agricultural community of Declo in south central Idaho. J. R. Simplot led his company to tremendous growth in the period between its founding and World War II. The business truly flourished when it sold millions of pounds of dehydrated onions and potatoes to the U.S. military during that war.
Perhaps the most important and defining feature of the Simplot company was the invention by one of Simplot's chemists, Ray L. Dunlap, of the necessary processes to produce quality frozen french fries. By the early 1960s it was the primary supplier of french fries to McDonald's; by 2005 it supplied more than half of all french fries for the fast food chain. Simplot also produces fertilizers for agriculture.
Simplot is now one of the largest privately owned companies in the world (ranked 59th in Private Companies by Forbes magazine in 2004) and has branches in Australia, Canada, Mexico, China, and several other regions. One of the major plants is in Caldwell, Idaho.
Butch Otter, current governor of Idaho, was employed by the company for 30 years and at one time served as head of its international division.
J. R. Simplot retired as president of his company in 1973, but remained involved for many years. He stepped down as chair of the board in 1994, and held the title of Chairman Emeritus until his death in 2008. In 2001, Simplot received an honorary degree from Utah State University, honoring him for his many contributions to the agricultural industry of America and, particularly, the mountain west.