Pet Age had the chance to sit down and chat with Michelle Granger, director of marketing at Champion Petfoods, to learn about the company’s mission and its new, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility.
Q DogStar is described as a state-of-the-art facility. What was the FDA’s reaction when it inspected DogStar?
A When the FDA came to audit our kitchens for the very first time, we’re proud to say that they were impressed. They described our DogStar Kitchens as a facility unlike anything they’ve ever seen before—for not just pet food, but any food facility. With our world-class quality and food safety systems, they believe DogStar is raising the bar of the whole industry and, as a result, they’ve asked us if they can use our kitchens as a bit of a showcase—a place where new FDA auditors come in and get trained.
Q How does DogStar enable Champion Petfoods to advance the company’s commitment to its values?
A DogStar was purpose-built specifically with our values of innovation and leadership in mind and a desire to advance our mandate of making biologically appropriate foods using fresh regional ingredients that are never outsourced. When we first started to look at expanding into the USA, we started with the intent to purchase rather than build. After exploring many different facilities in the USA, we discovered there really wasn’t a facility that could be fitted to meet our mandate of making innovative, biologically appropriate foods, so we decided to build our very own kitchens.
Touring our kitchens, you’ll discover that while it’s not the largest kitchen in the world, it’s certainly the best. Fitted with the world’s best technology and food safety systems, our kitchens were designed specifically around advancing our mandate. So whether it’s our 25,000 square feet of cooler space to hold our fresh ingredients, our high capacity blenders, our track and trace system or our one-of-a-kind votators used to gently begin the cooking process, the kitchen was designed and equipped with customized technology—and hopefully this gives pet lovers peace of mind and confidence in us and our foods.
Q What does “never outsourced” mean, and why is that philosophy important to Champion?
A “Never outsourced” means we make our foods ourselves and we don’t make food for anybody else. There are few pet food companies that can say this—it’s a bit of a rarity in our industry. This is important because it means we have full control of the making of our foods. So whether it be the sourcing of our ingredients, the cooking of our foods, or the management of quality and food safety, we control the process from beginning to end.
In addition to making our own foods, we also don’t make foods for anybody else. Many pet food facilities produce multiple brands. We don’t because we are fully focused and dedicated to just our foods, ORIJEN and ACANA.
Q How would you describe Champion’s relationship with its regional ingredient suppliers?
A The relationship that Champion has with our ingredient suppliers is much different than the relationship you’d typically see with most pet food companies. Most purchase commodity ingredients through brokers, often coming from unknown sources. Champion’s philosophy is much different: it’s based on earning the trust of pet lovers. In order for us to meet the expectations of pet lovers, we need to know where our ingredients come from and have confidence in our ingredients and our suppliers. We have a partnership and a relationship with our suppliers—a relationship built on trust. We regularly visit their farms, ranches and facilities to ensure they deliver according to our standards, contributing to our vision of being trusted by pet lovers worldwide.