Recognized as one of Alberta's Top Employers (2018)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Feb 20, 2018)
Here are some of the reasons why Champion Petfoods LP was selected as one of Alberta's Top Employers (2018):
- Champion Petfoods provides 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
- In addition to Champion Petfoods' regular health benefits plan, the company offers a health spending account of up to $750, allowing employees to customize levels of coverage to suit their personal needs
- Champion Petfoods invests in ongoing employee development with subsidies for tuition and professional accreditation, opportunities for formal mentoring, and a variety of in-house and online training programs, including apprenticeships
At Champion Petfoods, you 'play to your Gretzky'
At Edmonton-based Champion Petfoods, they've adopted the city's most famous sports icon as a model for encouraging top performance. Through an ongoing high-performance team training process, Champion works with employees to help identify personal and professional strengths and weaknesses -- a process they call "finding your Gretzky."
Explains Nikole Bordato, Champion's Manager of Project Management: "It's a reference you hear almost daily. Wayne Gretzky was someone who focused on his strengths, and managed his weaknesses, so he could become the best at what he was already very good at. Everyone here is encouraged to do the same by what we call 'playing to your Gretzky.'"
Champion, like Number 99, is already a world-class success story. Launched as a family-owned business in 1985, Champion created an ever-expanding market for what it calls its Biologically Appropriate dog and cat foods. Champion's two brands, ORIJEN and ACANA, are now exported to over 85 countries and have won more awards worldwide than any other pet food.
Champion's mission is to cook Biologically Appropriate foods, which mirror what dogs and cats would have eaten in the wild. The foods are made from fresh regional ingredients and never outsourced for cooking. The company's state-of-the-art kitchens, located in Alberta and Kentucky, are focused on research, innovation and food safety, which allows Champion to follow its vision of being trusted by pet lovers everywhere.
Striving for excellence is a priority across the company. "It's a demanding workplace and we have some highly-committed individuals," says Elizabeth Read, Champion's Director of Global Human Resources. "But it's also a very flexible and supporting environment. When people need to step back and take time for themselves, we make sure that happens."
While the company has grown to more than 530 employees worldwide, Read says it has retained the culture of a family-owned business. "Our CEO, Frank Burdzy, is one of the most down-to-earth individuals you'll ever meet," she says. "He spends time with our people and knows everyone's name. It's very refreshing."
The company worked with employees to identify Champion's core values, known as TRAIL (for teamwork, responsibility, authenticity, innovation and leadership). As a result, says Read, "everyone is aware of the values, knows what they mean and how to live them."
Many potential employees are drawn to Champion because they are pet lovers and it's not uncommon for them to bring their dogs to work. Observes Bordato: "It's a fun way to connect with your co-workers over something in common."
Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Apr 24, 2017)
Here are some of the reasons why Champion Petfoods LP was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2017):
- Champion Petfoods is premium pet food maker with a 30 year history -- the company continues to grow at an incredible pace, adding over 45 new positions in the past year
- 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 encourages ongoing employee development with a number of in-house training initiatives and tuition subsidies for courses related and indirectly related to their current position
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.
"It's kind of crazy to think of it that way," says Pinch, "but Ollie really did lead me to my career. I can see so much growth here. The sky's the limit at Champion because there's so much opportunity."
The company, which was named Alberta's 2016 Exporter of the Year, expects its sales will reach 100 countries by next year. In addition, Champion opened a new purpose-built, state-of-the-art pet food kitchen in Kentucky last year.
Despite its rapid growth, Champion Petfoods -- which was launched as a family-owned business in 1985 -- still has a friendly, family feel, says Lee Hodgins, Executive Vice-President of Corporate Services. "Our roots are in the family-owned business," he explains, "and I don't think we've ever lost that. That means we treat employees like they are family."
Pinch calls it a very nurturing environment. "They're very focused on what their employees want to do next and their development," she notes, "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.
As the company expands, its culture is also evolving -- but Champion is taking ownership of that change, observes Hodgins. To meet the challenges of growth, it is investing heavily in high-performance team training for managers and leaders in the organization. Last year, it held a two-day, global leadership forum in Edmonton that brought together about 70 leaders from across the entire company, including its managers from eastern and western Europe.
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 everywhere, says Hodgins.
"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. We're not driven by policy, per se. We're driven by trust."
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. "We try to personalize things when it comes to how our benefits are structured," explains Hodgins.
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."