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Photograph Jean-Michel Labat

Royal Canin

It’s a rare pleasure to find a company that truly impresses and it takes a lot to do it. They must have all the bases of strategy, employment and sustainability checked and still rise above my expectations. After I had the chance to speak with the Managing Director of Royal Canin South Africa, Frederic Desbrosses, I am pleased to say that his company has officially blown me away.

TO START WITH Pets are important to South Africans. A garden is not complete without a dog running through it chasing the sprinkler or jumping into the pool and every window sill or veranda looks empty without a cat sitting on it looking at the dog with a supercilious attitude. The pet industry in South Africa has far greater potential than in other countries with an increasing demand on top quality food products for the health of these cherished animals. Celebrating their tenth anniversary this year Royal Canin South Africa has been setting the standards since 2002. Royal Canin is a French brand - part of the Mars Corporation - which opened a subsidiary in South Africa in March 2001 after selling the product through an established network of distributors for several years to establish a demand. Now they are one of the major pet food companies in the country. Initially, when coming to South Africa, Royal Canin wanted

a local brand to accelerate the growth and penetration of the market and so they bought Vet’s Choice which was a leading brand. From the start there has been a special sort of approach to business. “Our aim is not only to be number one in Health Nutrition, quality and food safety for cats and dogs, and the leader in volume, but also to be recognized as the reference for both.” – Frederic Desbrosses, MD, Royal Canin. In 2003 Mr Henri Lagarde (CEO of Royal Canin at the time), and Dr. Charles Moore endeavoured to set up a natural ecological zone surrounding the Royal Canin factory in South Africa to protect and rebuild a natural, non-artificial environment. This was long before the global push for such ventures by any governments and came from a mutually felt passion for nature and to restore and protect the indigenous environment. To achieve this they approached environmental specialist John Masson, owner of Local Biodiversity Solutions in Johannesburg, who’s still heavily involved in the Ecopark today. This practice of repair and creation has been consistent through the history of the company and has developed a culture of sustainability that is emulated and driven by the staff. For example, solar geysers on the roof produce 80% of the hot water for the administration block, paper recycling, a reduction in plastic waste and a water reclamation and recycling plant on the grounds irrigates the Ecopark so no municipal water is used. Despite this, they still strictly monitor their water and carbon footprint, energy consumption and CO2 emissions to ensure that everything is where it needs to be. Their objective is to be sustainable within one generation. A triumph of the Ecopark comes in the form of a breeding population of the endangered African Bullfrog and a flourishing bird population that has grown from 10 species in 2003 to over 150 different species today. This is remarkable in a light industrial area. “Sustainability is very important at Royal Canin and for Mars Corporation. When taking a long term look at sustainability, you have to take into consideration the environment, the development of sustainable raw materials and recyclable materials to develop not only the practice but an established centre of sustainability.” – Frederic Desbrosses, MD, Royal Canin.

ASSOCIATES “We are developing a local talent pipeline through training, learning and development with the aim in the future to have more local management.“ – Frederic Desbrosses, MD, Royal Canin. The pet industry is changing. Ten years ago the majority of dogs in South Africa were primarily watch dogs and guard dogs aiding security, but since then times and trends have changed and there are many smaller dogs in residential estates and apartments as well as cats – all of which need precise nutritional answers for their specific needs. “Values and passion are key criteria for our associates. That is what Royal Canin is and must always be about, passion.” – Frederic Desbrosses, MD, Royal Canin. The associates involved with customer relations need to understand the products and the welfare of both pet and pet owner. Recognizing that a happy and informed associate will inevitably equal a happy customer, the company ensures that every staff member is kept up to date with the latest products and training from France (the headquarters), regularly assessed through personal development programmes, online training modules and given the best tools to work with. Having a major influence on their staff is the internal adult basic education and training (ABET)that takes place.

Royal Canin

“As part of our upliftment initiative in South Africa, we identified a need for increased numeracy and literacy skills amongst some associates who were very keen to improve their education. This led to a highly successful and continuous adult education programme amongst associates.” – Frederic Desbrosses, MD, Royal Canin.

of testing and analysing every raw material, as well as finished products that pass through our factories. We check everything and reject whatever is not top quality to ensure that we are more than 100% confident in our products. Regular audits are conducted to ensure that we fulfil every quality and food safety standard that is internationallly set by our Quality and Food Safety management team in France as well as taking into account the specific requirements of the local regulatory environment.” – Frederic Desbrosses, MD, Royal Canin.

They progress people too, promoting experienced people into managerial ranks and where necessary sending people to France or other overseas locations to work with experts and experience best practices for themselves. Collective intelligence is key to the philosophy of “the team before the individual” and the respect shown to staff is evident in the usage of the term ‘associates’ rather than ‘employees. Staff are partners in the success of the business and valued for their input and contribution. As mentioned earlier, the industry changes, not only with the roles pets play but with technology and understanding of nutrition too. Keeping on top of these changes while maintaining quality keeps a company on top of an industry and as France creates the new products, and South Africa has its own factory which produces for the local market, Royal Canin makes sure they’re perfect for their customers.

An important note is that Royal Canin’s mission has always been quality health nutrition and food safety. This is characterised by a precise balance amongst an average of 70 different nutrients (proteins, lipids, carbohydrates, aminoacids, fatty acids, mineral salts, vitamins and trace elements). The formulation of their animal diets corresponds to a complex nutritional puzzle whose construction guarantees a constant nutritional formula, respecting the precise and specific nutritional needs of cats and dogs. This places the animal at the heart of the scientific formulation process and the ingredients used are selected for the quality and benefits of the nutrients provided. A SPECIAL APPROACH? As part of the Mars Corporation, there are 5 Principles that guide and form part of the ‘bricks and mortar’ approach at Royal Canin, these being Quality, Freedom, Efficiency, Responsibility and Mutuality. These principles

“Uncompromising in favour of food safety, we have always had a laboratory in South Africa but the new laboratory was a specifically built addition, in a new wing, utilizing new training methods and acquiring new analysis equipment as we believe strongly in the importance

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Triple E Training, rated as one of the three most excellent Adult Education and Training Providers in South Africa, provides English, Mathematics and essential Life Skills. Our learners are adults from all educational levels completing full qualifications or upgrading exclusive skills in order to further opportunities. 21 years’ experience has meant that we take the lead with innovative learning materials, quality facilitation, nation-wide delivery, and an unparalleled professional and hands-on approach to training. We offer business-to-business solutions that improve knowledge, skills, values and attitude, all of which are vital to an organisation’s growth and global success. We educate, enrich and truly empower South Africa.

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have encouraged the development of Royal Canin into the company it is today. But it doesn’t explain the full extent to which the company has approached its unique growth in South Africa. The explanation comes from the passion with which Frederic Desbrosses the managing director and all the associates face their everyday operations and challenges. After speaking with him you get the distinct impression that he thinks big, looking at goals and targets as far away as 2020 while working small on day to day processes. “Cats and dogs first,” he says, “We work with people who have passion and a love of animals like veterinarians and breeders. The founder of Royal Canin was a veterinarian and his first client was a breeder. That unique partnership with breeders and veterinarians has remained and is a very important part of our business,” In conclusion, the quality of the products and the passion of the associates are the vital components to a company’s success. The additional elements that Royal Canin are so dedicated to including staff development, the Ecopark, their approach to growth and expansion and the responsible and passionate attitude of their people are each an individual testament to the overall design of their future. They are the model company for what the 21st century needs. “Quality is a matter of survival and our 1st Principle,” – Frederic Desbrosses, MD, Royal Canin.

Local Biodiversity Solutions “John Masson, CEO of Local Biodiversity Solutions (LBS) has been appointed as the biodiversity specialist for the Ecological Green Space labelisation committee of ECOCERT Environment. LBS established a revolutionary land-use model which integrates natural biodiversity within the developed environment to extend sustainable, ecological services to the greater urban footprint. Visit the LBS website at to learn more about the model.”

Royal Canin +27 11 801 5000 Written by Don Campbell

Royal Canin Corporate Brochure  

Royal Canin