Retail Dietitian Close Up: Ashley Kibutha, RD, LD; Coborn’s Inc.
By Amanda Rubizhevsky
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
I started working as a natural foods clerk for Coborn’s during my dietetic internship. Soon after I passed my boards, Coborn’s was hiring a supermarket dietitian, and I was offered the position. I was thrilled as I had seen first hand the need for this position while working in the store. Because I was the first RD for Coborn’s, I was really able to make the program my own. The first thing I did was to reach out and network with other local dietitians, which helped create the strong community network I have today. I started cooking demos with our corporate chef and did nutrition classes for the community. I also took on the role of managing NuVal and getting our community more engaged. Coborn’s has really embraced the dietitian role and we continue to develop new programs. Most recently we have dedicated healthy check-lanes in every Coborn’s location.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Overall the biggest challenge by far is dealing with all of the misinformation that is saturating the community. There are so many people offering incorrect and non-science based dietary information. It is very misleading and unjust to the consumer who is just looking to eat more nutritiously and live a healthier lifestyle. My goal is to help them decipher the correct information.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I had a better understanding of the people I was serving and the nutrition knowledge they had. I assumed that some nutrition information was basic and that cooking skills were more common. However this is not always the case. Now I spend more time going over the basics and simplifying my presentations and personal consults. I start out by asking them what they already know and what their goals are. This way I can better tailor my presentations and one-on-one conversations.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
The support from my company has been phenomenal. Health and nutrition are part of our core brand values, so having a supermarket dietitian and growing this program is a priority for our stores. I also cannot thank our partners enough for their support and reception of this position.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
As the supermarket dietitian, I am constantly interacting with our customers and learning more about their desires when it comes to nutrition. In addition, I joined retail dietitian groups, and attended a variety of conferences specifically for supermarket RDs. In order to learn more about the grocery business itself, I worked with the different managers at all levels to learn about their positions and how I could be of help to them.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
I am most proud of our Build a Better Basket event. We hosted the event at our three superstores in the Saint Cloud region, and promoted NuVal and “trading up” at each meal. The goal of the event was to promote healthy eating and show people that nutritious food can taste good and can be affordable. I am very proud to say that Coborn’s received an award for this event at NGA. Because of our great success with this event we plan to do it annually and expand it to more locations each year.
Ashley has a degree in Nutrition and a concentration in Dietetics from the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University. She completed her dietetic internship through Iowa State University’s Distance program. She has been the supermarket Dietitian for Coborn’s Grocery Stores since October 2012.
St. Cloud, Minn.-based Coborn’s, Inc. is an employee-owned grocery retailer with 8,000+ employees and 54 supermarkets across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin under the Coborn’s, Cash Wise Foods, Save-A-Lot and Marketplace Foods banners. Coborn’s, Inc. also owns CobornsDelivers, an online grocery ordering and home delivery service; and stand-alone convenience, liquor, video and pharmacy locations. To support its 120 retail locations, Coborn’s, Inc. operates its own central bakery, dry cleaning facility and grocery distribution center in St. Cloud. In 2010, Coborn’s, Inc. was recognized as ‘Family Business of the Year for Community Service and Philanthropy’ by Minnesota Business magazine. In 2011, Coborn’s, Inc. was recognized as ‘Independent Retailer of the Year’ by Grocery Headquarters magazine. In 2014, the company’s president and CEO, Chris Coborn, was named the Grocer of the Year by the N.D. Grocers Association.