DC Foods (2001) Inc.
If you go to the DC Foods website, you won’t find a carefully plotted out site with lots of fancy photos of the company’s operations or people.
Instead, you’ll find the contact information for a company offering a unique co-packing service out of facilities in Waterloo, Ontario. If you decide to contact the company, you’ll most likely reach Don Kilimnik, President of DC Foods, a marketer in his own right. Kilimnik and his partner, Rob Curik started the company in 1992, with a mere 2000 square foot space, and together with five other employees made individually quick frozen chicken breats.
The company’s come a long way from where they started, and with any luck will be doing even more business in the coming year.
Moving on and up
Kilimnik and Curik were both employees of Maple Leaf Foods when the plant where they were located announced it would be shut down. The gentlemen were not ready to transfer to their chosen destination, and so started their own production facility.
“We expanded in 1993, by adding a batter breading line that year. We added another line in 1996 – this after we had begun to process foods like chicken nuggets and breaded cheese sticks – our core products today” Kilimnik recalls. “By the time we bought the building we’re in now, in 1999, we were making all kinds of finger foods.” The DC Foods facility is approximately 20,000 square feet, and has the capacity to suit an ever-growing company – DC is now the employer of 120 staff, all of whom are eligible to take part in a profit-sharing program.
Watching out for employees
Kilimnik says that staying close to employees is difficult now with the staff the size that it is, but the company has always done its best to have an open door policy and make sure their culture is intact. “We used to have staff meetings every Friday afternoon with everyone. Then it turned to monthly, and now quarterly meetings. But that doesn’t mean our culture has diminished. We still keep everyone informed, with a monthly newsletter and meetings, and have Q&A sessions” Kilimnik explains.
To this date, the company has never laid an employee off.
DC Foods recognizes how privileged they are to have loyal employees. In 1999, the company was bought by another enterprise that went bankrupt a short time later. Through the transition and after, when DC Foods finally reclaimed the company, the original staff was still intact. “We had to negotiate with the bank and some bondholders, and we didn’t get it for any cheaper just because we used to own the company. It didn’t go very well, needless to say, and it was hard on our staff, but they all kept their jobs and know that it wasn’t something we intended to happen” Kilimnik reasons.
Won’t be slowed by the recession
DC Foods has boasted sales of $30 million year over year the past few years. The company has always been flexible and adaptable to the customers’ needs, and that has helped greatly in times of economic hardship. “We have to be very flexible” Kilimnik explains, adding “if a customer calls and says they just had a big run of product and have run out, I can’t very well say ‘I’ll get that to you in a month’. We service on time and within the demands of the customer”.
The service offering of the company is unique because DC doesn’t make ready-to-eat products, they simply create new kinds of batter-and-breaded products and sell them to their customers. “We started that way in 1992 because we didn’t have the money to build a brand or hire salespeople. We kept building our business since then and it’s just grown and grown.” DC Foods creates a variety of different products depending what the customer is after. According to Kilimnik, the company is seeing a swing in their sales volume from food service to retail, a result of the recession: “less people are eating out, and instead going out and buying comparable foods at the grocery store” Kilimnik says.
For the time being, or at least through the recession, DC will concentrate on the retail markets. “We’re opportunists” Kilimnik explains “so we’ll take advantage of all the opportunities that come through that door”. Almost all the company’s business is in Canada, but they do offer products to some customers in the U.S.
Sticking to a niche customer-base
Luckily, because DC Foods does not produce ready-to-eat products, they’re not affected as directly by food and health scares in North America. “The fact that we don’t do ready-to-eat lends itself to another business strategy. We’ve integrated our product because we don’t have to worry about raw poultry, so we’ve extended our product into doing fish and other products” Kilimnik says.
The company is aiming to do sales in the same range or better as they pulled in in 2008. “We’re manufacturing battered and breaded chicken, veal, fish and cheese, but we really are a co-packing business. Our customers are those that have a great battered breaded product idea but have no idea how to make it, and that’s where we come in. In that regard, we think that our business is very unique and we intend to keep it that way.”
DC Foods is HACCP certified and continually offers employees proper training on any machinery or processing tools that are necessary for the job. Kilimnik is optimistic for the company, and sees that their business is stable and steady: “we work with the most modern equipment possible, and we’re continually investing in the best process packaging. We spend a lot of money and research on line testing and are committed to offering the best customer service out there”.
All is well for DC Foods, and Kilimnik is ready to put the business out there for any customer looking to do business with a genuine Canadian-borne co-packer. For contact information for DC Foods, see their website www.dcfoodsinc.com.