Lake Champlain Chocolates Partners With Rhino Foods To Combat Staffing Shortage

Burlington, VT — At a time when businesses are struggling to staff factories, Lake Champlain Chocolates has partnered with Rhino Foods, a long-time Burlington South End business, to keep up with its fourth quarter orders. Rhino Foods’ slowest time of year is the fourth quarter — it is a manufacturer of ice cream and frozen dessert inclusions — and annual facility maintenance and installation of new equipment meant it had extra staff available for work. Rhino is lending those employees to Lake Champlain Chocolates. 

“It’s really a win-win for both companies,” says Rooney Castle, vice-president of Rhino Foods. “Lake Champlain Chocolates has access to highly-trained food manufacturing employees, and we can continue to offer a paycheck and benefits without interruption to our staff.” 

Lake Champlain had been calling on everyone to help out during its seasonal rush, including requesting administrative staff to take shifts in the factory.  

“This is always a busy time of year and it’s not unusual for employees to step out of their regular role to spend a day in shipping or packaging to push through those particularly busy days,” says Mary Wylde, director of people and culture at Lake Champlain.  “This year, however, is a completely different story. We’re down a significant number of seasonal hires, couple that with record sales, and it becomes a real challenge.”  

According to the companies, both of which are Certified B Corps, the goal is for 10 Rhino employees to work through December 23. This represents a labor increase of about 22 percent for the course of those 17 working days. It will also give Lake Champlain staff a reprieve from the constant overtime they have been working, the company says. 

“We’ll provide the Rhino employees with mentors and the training they need to be successful. Plus, an abundance of chocolate so it is a positive and rewarding experience for them,” says Wylde.  

Rhino Foods started the Employee Exchange Program in 1993 when the company faced excess staff brought on by efficiency improvements and the seasonality of the ice cream industry. Instead of laying people off, the company explored creative solutions to keep well-trained employees for the long-term.  

Castle explains: “it is simply an exchange of employees between companies with opposing seasonal business cycles. We avoid seasonal lay-offs, retain well-trained staff, and increase company morale.”