Recognized as one of Alberta's Top Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 3, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Champion Petfoods LP was selected as one of Alberta's Top Employers (2016):
- Champion Petfoods offers a number of financial benefits, including signing bonuses for some employees, year-end bonuses for all, contributions to a defined benefit pension plan and referral bonuses for employees who successfully refer a candidate
- In addition to Champion Petfoods' regular health benefits plan the company also offers a health spending account of up to $750, which can be carried over to the following year for a maximum of two years
- Champion Petfoods invests in ongoing employee development through tuition subsidies for job-related courses, subsidies for professional accreditation and financial bonuses for some course completions
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 28, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Champion Petfoods LP was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2016):
- Champion Petfoods is an Alberta-based specialty pet food maker with a 30 year history that continues to grow at an incredible pace, adding 35 new positions in the past year
- Champion Petfoods encourages employees to save for the future with contributions to a defined benefit pension plan
- Champion Petfoods helps employees balance work and their personal lives through a variety of alternative work arrangements, including flexible hours, telecommuting and a compressed work week option
Champion Petfoods has a recipe for career success
When Dominika Rychlikova was deciding what to feed her black Labrador retriever, Buddy, she chose a product made by Champion Petfoods LP. She was impressed that the Edmonton company does everything in-house, making its own cat and dog foods using only fresh ingredients from local suppliers. So when the opportunity arose to work at Champion as a junior business analyst in the summer of 2011, Rychlikova was up for the challenge.
At the time, she was a student at the University of Alberta's School of Business and wanted to experience working in a smaller business environment. Champion owns and operates its own kitchens where it makes only its Acana and Orijen product lines; it doesn't allow others to make its foods and does not make any private label pet foods.
It's an uncommon approach in the pet food industry where brands are often made by third-party suppliers. Yet for Rychlikova, who joined Champion full-time upon graduating from university and today works as a project manager, this modus operandi just makes sense. For one, it contributes to a team atmosphere where she and her co-workers - pet lovers all - share a mandate and a sense of purpose.
"Everyone truly believes in the company's mission, vision and values," says Rychlikova. "They're our cultural cornerstone."
Frank Burdzy, Champion's President and CEO, agrees. The company's mission, he notes, is to make "Biologically Appropriate pet foods from Fresh Regional Ingredients that are Never Outsourced", abbreviated as BAFRINO. "Our vision is to be trusted by pet lovers worldwide," says Burdzy. "These are not just catch phrases that are on a boardroom wall that are forgotten; these are what Champion team members live and breathe. We use these as guiding principles in all decision making, and are the core of who we are at Champion."
Innovation is one of those core values. This has long been exemplified by Champion's insistence on making foods that are "Biologically Appropriate," meaning the diets of cats and dogs should mirror their evolutionary adaptation to protein-rich diets. In 2015, the company opened a $5.9-million BAFRINO Research and Innovation Centre that will focus on creating new foods based on this nutritional philosophy.
It's a big step for a company that began in the early 1990s as a small division of a thriving animal feed manufacturing plant. Champion has grown to become Canada's largest independent pet food manufacturer, exporting its Acana and Orijen brands to over 75 countries. Along the way, it has won numerous awards, both for the healthfulness of its products and for its business achievements.
In January, Champion launched another major undertaking, opening a second kitchen in Auburn, Kentucky, to serve the growing pet specialty market in the U.S. The original kitchen in Morinville, about 30 km north of Edmonton, will continue to supply Canada, Europe and Asia. Both facilities use meats, poultry, eggs and fish that are sustainably ranched, farmed or fished by local suppliers and delivered fresh each day.
The company takes the well-being of its employees seriously, and this includes their personal and professional development. In addition to regular performance reviews, Champion holds proactive one-on-one career discussions and offers many tuition subsidies and programs to help staff achieve their goals.
Champion encourages employees to save for the future with matching RSP contributions. It also helps employees balance work and their personal lives through a variety of alternative work arrangements, including flexible hours, telecommuting and a compressed work week option.
"Family is important," says Burdzy, whose household includes a cat named Amazon. "We care about the health, wellness, and balance of our team. This makes accommodating schedules an easy decision."
Of course, pets are considered family at Champion and from the beginning, the company has designated "dog days" when employees can bring their pets to work with them. "You see how happy they are to be here," says Rychlikova. "It creates a really fun atmosphere for everyone."
This article appeared in the magazine announcing this year's Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers winners, published March 29, 2016 in The Globe and Mail. This article was prepared with the financial support of the employer, which did not write or edit its contents.