Recognized as one of Alberta's Top Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 21, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Champion Petfoods LP was selected as one of Alberta's Top Employers (2017):
- Champion Petfoods recently introduced maternity leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers (to 70% of salary for up to 17 weeks) and also offers flexible hours for when they are ready to return to work
- Champion Petfoods offers opportunities for students and new grads to gain career-level experience through summer student roles, co-op placements and paid internships -- and manages an in-house apprenticeship program to help the next generation develop their skills
- In addition to Champion Petfoods' regular health benefits plan, the company offers a health spending account of up to $750, which can be carried over to the following year for a maximum of two years
Trust is the key ingredient at Champion Petfoods
Most people plotting their career path consult with a counsellor or trusted friend. Mackenzie Pinch got help from her dog, Ollie. Thankfully, the Stakeholder Relations Analyst for Edmonton-based Champion Petfoods LP was barking up the right tree.
As a dedicated dog lover, Pinch wanted to feed her new Siberian Husky puppy the best quality food she could find. That led her to Champion Petfoods, which has created a swiftly expanding, international market for what it calls Biologically Appropriate dog and cat food that is made from fresh, regional ingredients and is never outsourced to other producers. The company, which was named Alberta's 2016 Exporter of the Year, expects its sales will reach 100 countries by next year.
Despite its rapid growth, Champion Petfoods - which was launched as a family-owned business in 1985 - still has a friendly, family feel, says Pinch. "It's a very nurturing culture," she notes. "They're very focused on what their employees want to do next, and they're very open to supporting any educational goals you have."
Pinch, who has a degree in international business from Edmonton's MacEwan University, was originally hired as a summer student, then recruited for a permanent role when she graduated in December 2015. She currently works in the company's global affairs department.
The company's corporate culture is built on its core values of teamwork, responsibility, authenticity, innovation and leadership (TRAIL). But the vision underlying those values is to be trusted by pet lovers and business partners everywhere, says Lee Hodgins, Executive Vice-President of Corporate Services.
"When we say we want to be trusted everywhere, that includes internally," he says. "Our employees are huge stakeholders for us. We value them and their development, and we want to make sure they're happy."
Employees are supported in part by a strong benefits package. The company's health plan includes a health-spending account of up to $750, which can be carried over for a maximum of two years and used for any health-related expense. The amount can also be transferred to a lifestyle spending account, which offers more flexibility.
Recently, the company introduced maternity leave top-up payments of up to 70 per cent of salary for 17 weeks. It also offers flexible hours when new moms return to work. Employees are even allowed to bring their pets to the office on designated "dog days."
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."