St. Stephen’s Ganong Bros. is Canada’s original and longest standing family-owned chocolate company. Founded in 1873 by James and Gilbert Ganong, the company has emerged as one of the province’s most famous brands as generations of dedicated Ganong family and team members have evolved and adapted countless times to support growth while embracing the same standard of quality craftsmanship they are known for.
The Ganong team have been true innovators along the way, becoming the first to imprint the bottom of their chocolates (they read GB Ganong’s) and introducing the first heart-shaped chocolate boxes in the 1930s. Today, the company continues to invest in innovation and productivity to remain competitive.
“We recently completed a significant project that allowed us to change how we produce several of our products, adopting innovative new-to-us technologies into our process,” notes Bryana Ganong, President & CEO. “This greatly enhanced our capabilities and we’ve secured new pieces of business as a result; we’re much more competitive now.”
ONB recently spoke to Bryana to learn more.
ONB: When some people hear the word automation they think about robots taking jobs. How do you feel about that view?
Ganong: I can only speak to Ganong’s experience. Our goal with automation is not to shed jobs but to ensure our operation is as productive as possible. We have tremendous employees and we want to make sure the company stays competitive, so they can grow their careers alongside the company’s growth. As we add new technology to our production process, new opportunities open. Employees receive training, so they can move into less labour-intensive, high-skilled positions. Just over a year ago, we introduced a new compensation framework that ensures our team understands exactly how they can advance in their career path at Ganong. This year, we invested in increasing those pay bands and adding a new highly skilled category; all of this reflects where we want to go with our operations and our team. The long-term goal is to have all employees performing in high-skilled roles.
Investing in productivity means more than purchasing new equipment. How else is Ganong improving productivity?
We have made a wide range of products for a long time, so we have put a lot of energy into reducing complexity. There’s been a streamlining of our product portfolio, reducing items that were labour intensive. That’s allowed us to be more productive and add new business. We now work with a lot of contract manufacturing partners, manufacturing products under other company’s brands. That makes up roughly 70 per cent of our business today.
What other positives have you noticed within the company since investing more in productivity?
When employees see that we’re planning and making the right investments that will help the company thrive, it helps them take even more pride in the work we’re all doing together.
That’s why, as we make these investments, we try to fully communicate the how and the why of our changes. When you do that, you can feel the excitement among your team when new equipment comes in. It helps people feel more connected to the company.
How do you see the company moving forward and staying innovative in this post-Covid-19 world?
Relationships have always been key to Ganong as a company and as a family. We will continue to work hard to secure new business through collaboration and building of trust. Even through COVID-19, we’ve been able to secure two new significant pieces of business where the relationships were mostly built remotely. That’s possible thanks to our experience and our credibility. We’ve been in business for 147 years, but we don’t accept the status quo, we must be able to pivot and adapt, be open to new ideas, and COVID-19 has only made that clearer to everyone.
Thankfully, we’ve been able to safely operate throughout the pandemic. Employees have been patient and resilient as they adapted to every protocol change along the way. We had to execute projects remotely, do factory acceptance testing virtually, and hold virtual meetings, but we have made it through. It’s opened our minds to new ways of doing things and I think that makes us well-positioned to thrive moving forward.
What role do you feel Ganong plays in the overall success of the province’s economy?
We are committed to the province and its people. We’ve been employing New Brunswickers for almost 150 years, procuring our materials locally, and encouraging our team to volunteer and give back to the community. We are committed to growing New Brunswick’s economy, encouraging and mentoring our entrepreneurs, and helping businesses succeed here. ONB has been a great partner of our company on several projects over the years.
Many people have an emotional connection to our products like Chicken Bones or Delecto chocolates. They’ve become part of well-loved traditions and occasions for many families in this region. We’re currently undergoing a refresh of the Ganong brand to ensure relevance to the next generation as we continue our evolution anchored in our brand promise of helping Canadians celebrate their sweetest moments. We are confident that will be easy thanks to the continued support of New Brunswickers and the business community here.
Interested in a career at Ganong Bros.? Check out their current opportunities.