Strategic move to secure global supply – Cobb Vantress

Cobb Vantress New Zealand

“Our aim is to be a positive part of the community and one of our core values is family. We value our employees as family and this means a focus on really looking after them.”

General Manager- Jimmy Chand

Global chicken supplier Cobb Vantress has helped to transform work opportunities for locals in the Port Waikato region since the company opened its doors there in 2019.

New Zealand’s bird flu free status attracted the company to set up its large New Zealand operation in a strategic move to secure global customer supply, says general manager of Cobb Vantress New Zealand Jimmy Chand.

Established in 1916, Cobb Vantress is the world’s oldest pedigree broiler breeding company.

The company develops, produces, sells and services broiler breeding stock. Healthy birds, continuous genetic progress, superior meat quality, and industry-leading products and technical support are the company’s focuses.
Based at Rangiriri, the New Zealand facility has seen an almost $100m investment made in the operation, which employs 120 staff.

Opening its New Zealand facility right before a global pandemic was not part of Cobb Vantress’ business plans.

The company’s New Zealand facility is responsible for 10% of the global chicken supply. With freight connections to Asia severely affected Cobb Vantress decided to charter flights to ensure global market needs were met and safeguard food supplies for the world.

“Even though we were losing money to do this we have a greater responsibility, which is to supply food. If we didn’t supply those chickens three years down the track in 2023 those markets would not have food,” explains Jimmy.

Jimmy says that people have always been a major focus for the company, which saw it offer a living wage of $21 in its New Zealand operation from the inception. This has recently been increased to $24.50 in recognition of the pressure placed on people as a result of the pandemic.

The company also pays penal rates for weekend work.

“This is the base/minimum wage all our employees are paid but of course many are paid far more than this. It means anyone who starts with us with zero experience can earn a good living,” says Jimmy.

“Our aim is to be a positive part of the community and one of our core values is family. We value our employees as family and this means a focus on really looking after them.”

This has also seen significant investment made in artificial intelligence in the facility to enable a safe and easier working environment for staff. Examples are automated breeding egg collection, automatic sweepers and a move to automated washing of equipment. Jimmy says the hatchery is the most automated in New Zealand.

As a major employer in the region Cobb Vantress has worked closely with local iwi to identify opportunities for people to work in the facility. This has led to assisting staff to complete PITO courses and currently 60 staff is working their way through the qualification. Once finished their wages will reflect the higher level of skill they bring to the operation, says Jimmy, as a direct reward for their hard work and effort. It’s a win-win with Cobb Vantress benefiting from more expertise in its workforce and employees gaining opportunities for career advancement.

Cobb Vantress has recently partnered with Smart Waikato, a charitable trust that partners with iwi, business, education and government agencies to deliver a range of initiatives that better support rangatahi transitioning from education to employment. Cobb Vantress will offer opportunities to at local risk youth to gain work experience in its facility to give them a boost into the job market or further study.

Jimmy has also met with the Māori King, Te Arikinui Tūheitia Paki, to discuss economic development strategies for the region.

“Cobb Vantress New Zealand is growing, as sales into Asia and the Pacific increase. The success of our business is thanks to our team, many of which are Māori. We are actively working to hire more members of the community and hope they will continue to join the Cobb family,” says Jimmy.

He says Cobb Vantress is heavily involved in a number of community initiatives including sponsorships of the local golf club. During the first lockdown the company purchased 25,000 eggs from its customers, who were struggling when suddenly markets dried up for their produce, and these were distributed to local families in need.

Jimmy says that Cobb Vantress New Zealand is focusing on future growth opportunities in the Pacific.

“We take our mission seriously: make quality protein accessible, healthy and affordable worldwide.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2022

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