If you've ever had a McDonald's burger, there is a 70 percent chance the onions in that burger were supplied by Olam's U.S. business, says Sunny Verghese, Olam's group CEO.
The agri-business is the world's biggest producer of dehydrated onions; it's one of many superlatives the company lays claim to, including being world's largest almond-orchard owner and its biggest sesame-seed supplier.
And it keeps on coming. "We're now the world's largest farmer," Verghese tells CNBC's Managing Asia.
With approximately 3.3 million hectares of land in 26 countries under its ownership and management, the Singapore-listed company has come a long way since starting in 1989 by exporting cashew nuts from Nigeria.
Olam's strategy has been based around transitioning from an asset-light supply-chain trading company to an integrated global agri-business. Upstream investments in plantations, as well as downstream ones in manufacturing, brought greater synergy and helped Olam to differentiate itself from competitors such as global trading giant Cargill and regional commodities player Wilmar, Verghese says.
But this kind of investment also results in reduced returns on equity, making it crucial to have a patient, aligned shareholder base, Verghese adds. This is particularly important because investments in farming assets require a long view - palms take seven years to mature, while edible nuts such as pistachios can take ten to eleven years.
"You have to be a patient investor," Verghese notes.
Temasek, the Singapore state investment company, is Olam's majority shareholder, and Verghese says support from Temasek was a shot in the arm for Olam in 2012 when the agri-business came under attack from famed U.S. short-seller Carson Block. Now, long-term investors comprise close to 90 percent of Olam's shareholder register.