Home Cover Champion Petfoods: Expanding, Innovating and Improving the Communities It Serves

Champion Petfoods: Expanding, Innovating and Improving the Communities It Serves

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Frank Burdzy, president and CEO, Champion Petfoods. Photo by EPIC photography Inc.

Do you feel like your cat or dog is a part of your family? Do you refer to them as your fur babies? For many, the family pet is a loyal companion and an important member of the household. Not only is a little spoiling in order for the furry friend, but pet owners are also very careful to ensure their cat or dog gets a nutritionally balanced, healthy diet as well – and that’s where Champion Petfoods comes in.

Champion Petfoods creates and markets Biologically Appropriate™ foods that are made from fresh, regional ingredients. The company cooks its foods in its own kitchens and is, at present, developing a new 400,000 square foot state-of-the-art NorthStar® Kitchens facility just west of Edmonton in Parkland County. For this venture, Champion is pleased to work with Gray Construction Canada Company, an industry leader in building food manufacturing facilities, who have partnered with Alberta-based Keller Construction Ltd., for the design build. Champion has purchased lands within the future Highlands Business Park being developed by Panattoni Development Company, a leading firm with 24 offices across North America and Europe.

At the helm of this award-winning company is a man with a vision. Frank Burdzy, president and CEO, is driven by passion and demands excellence in everything he does. With the success of the company, not to mention the nutritional wellness of thousands of cats and dogs, as his prime responsibility, Burdzy combines his love of the agri-foods sector with his extensive experience to ensure everyone that deals with Champion – from the staff to the pet lovers to the contractors and the pets – has an exceptional experience.

“I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan and subsequently spent the first 15 years of my working life both on and off the farm,” Burdzy reminisces. “I received my Bachelor of Business Degree and a Master of Business Degree from the University of Regina. From this, I was able to combine my passion for agriculture with a business skill set, and that led the majority of my career to working in the agriculture or agri-food sectors. This experience, along with the fact that I have been fortunate enough to work in internationally-focussed companies, made Champion a perfect fit for me.

“I always envisioned myself working within the agriculture and/or food sectors because it has been a large part of my life and my upbringing; however, I can’t say that I would have envisioned pet food! That being said, at Champion, we hold ourselves to such high standards in terms of ingredients, food safety, and nutrition that it has the same components of making a human food product.”

Burdzy continues, “Champion Petfoods makes premium dog and cat foods under two brand names: ACANA and ORIJEN. Our foods are based on the mandate of being Biologically Appropriate, which means as dogs or cats would eat in the wild. This translates to lots of meat – fresh meat and different types of meat. We make our food from fresh regional ingredients, and we never outsource, which means we don’t make food for anyone else, and nobody else makes our food. This mandate allows us to follow our vision of being trusted by pet lovers everywhere.”

He’s excited for the new facility.

“We are building a new state-of-the-art, custom-fitted kitchen called NorthStar Kitchens in Parkland County, Alberta to advance our Biologically Appropriate mandate and to accommodate the growing global demand for ACANA and ORIJEN. Situated on 75 acres of farmland, the new NorthStar Kitchens will continue serving our Canadian and export markets, which consist of over 80 countries. The 400,000 square foot kitchens will prepare our award-winning pet foods and treats.

“We chose Parkland County as the location for our new kitchens because of their business-friendly focus and strong agricultural community. The location fits not only the technical requirements of a state-of-the-art kitchen, but it will also be a great home for ACANA and ORIJEN.

“The new NorthStar Kitchens will bring the world’s best pet food kitchens back to where ACANA and ORIJEN’s story began: our agriculturally vibrant home of Alberta.

“ACANA stands for Alberta/Canada. It was our first branded product. It just celebrated its 25th year in 2016, and it has a long history in the premium pet food market around the world.

“ORIJEN stands for back-to-the-beginning to-nourish-as nature-intended. It was launched in 2005 and has disrupted the pet food industry with its never-before-seen high levels of fresh meat inclusion.

“While Alberta is our home base, our marketplace is the world. It’s a shining example of what a value-added industry that is focused on local agricultural inputs can accomplish when it is combined with a penchant for international niche marketing.”

Champion has trademarked the Biologically Appropriate mandate.

“Champion is making Biologically Appropriate food and is going up against the biggest companies in the world and winning. You can do that here in Alberta, and that’s one of the many reasons we’re so proud to be Albertan.

“Biologically Appropriate represents Champion’s position as an industry leader and award-winning innovator. Our Biologically Appropriate nutritional philosophy represents a new standard of pet food that is designed to nourish dogs and cats according to their evolutionary adaptation to meat and protein-rich diets. Biologically Appropriate is at the core of everything we do. This philosophy was founded on simple and strong principles of nutritional science and local ingredients, and it has enabled Champion to lead the industry in creating beautiful foods.

“We bring economic diversification to our province. Our success means the agricultural producers throughout Alberta and beyond can plan to grow their businesses along with us. Champion is committed to excellence through our clear mission for fresh, regional ingredients, and through our partnering with Alberta ranchers and farmers. This partnership introduces tens of millions into Alberta agriculture through direct and indirect economic benefit.”

Burdzy has had a long and varied career, but for now, he’s content and happy to be innovating with Champion, and to be giving back to Edmonton, Parkland County, and its many surrounding communities.

“The community and agricultural focus of Edmonton is something that really makes it a place in which I feel comfortable, and it makes Champion such a great company to work with and headquarter in Edmonton. The other factor that I find remarkable in Edmonton is the entrepreneurial spirit and the many diverse businesses and initiatives that are going on throughout the city, whether business, arts, cultural, culinary, or activity based, there is always something interesting going on in this city!

“The most rewarding part of my job is when pet lovers who feed [their pets] ACANA and ORIJEN come up to me and tell me how our foods have made a significant and positive impact on their pets and their own happiness in life.

“The most challenging thing for me about Champion Petfoods is managing the growth we have seen over the seven years I have been a part of the company. We have grown from 92 to 550 employees, from one facility to three kitchens in two countries, and from the 45 countries in which our foods were sold to over 80 and counting! These are all positive problems to have; however, we have to work hard to ensure we maintain our unwavering commitment to our vision and mission, and to quality, food safety, and our culture.”

How does it feel knowing that Champion has a hand in improving the lives and longevity of pets around the world?

“Making a difference in the lives of dogs and cats is my favourite thing about the work I do with Champion Petfoods. We serve pet lovers who want the best for their dogs and cats and as pet lovers ourselves, we know peace of mind is paramount. We strive to earn trust with every food we make.”

Burdzy, has made a huge impact on Champion during his time with the company, and he is happy to share some of the lessons he’s learned as president and CEO, as well as through his other entrepreneurial pursuits.

“For entrepreneurship, it is important to have clearly established goals aligned with drive, dedication, and perseverance. It is as important to understand what it is to be a great team player as it is to identify what it takes to be a great leader. For teamwork, it takes each individual’s commitment to strive for excellence in their contributions, and to being fully aware of the team’s needs, as well as their own. It is important to take calculated chances in life because personal and professional growth only happens when you are outside of your comfort zone.”

As for work/life balance, “It is something that we all aspire to, but it is very difficult to achieve; however, with commitment and focus, it is possible.”

Burdzy helps achieve that balance by spending time with his family, running, hiking, and snowshoeing through the mountains, and by playing golf when he’s not at work.

Champion is committed to investing in the communities that have helped to support the company and grow their brand.

“We strive to make all of our contributions focused on Champion values, including being regional, innovative, and authentic, in order to help us build trust in our community,” Burdzy points out. “We support many initiatives, organizations, and charities in our community in addition to local animal rescues. This giving culture is rooted in our culture from our founder, Reinhard Muhlenfeld. He learned that years of hard work created the foundation for award-winning brands. In Mr. Muhlenfeld’s words, ‘It’s only right that you should give back to the place that gave you the opportunity.’ Champion is committed to the communities it calls home to help make them greater places to live, work, and play.”

With the new facility on the horizon, along with unprecedented growth, Burdzy and his team look forward to everything the future has in store for Champion Petfoods, and for the thousands of pets and pet lovers that inspire their work every day.

“The entire Champion team has really been key to the success of the company. Without the hard work and dedication that our teammates put in each day to build trust with pet lovers everywhere, Champion would not be what it is today. It is due to this team that Champion has grown to become one of the world’s best-loved pet food makers. We focus on continuous improvement through innovation. That innovation can take many forms, from reformulation to different product lines, or to an expanded geographic footprint. This year, we began construction on our new NorthStar® Kitchens and have opened new markets in Latin America. As we move forward, I see Champion continuing to push the boundaries of the conventional pet food industry; continuing to improve our foods, technologies, and kitchens; and continuing to reach more pet lovers worldwide.”

SOURCENerissa McNaughton
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