Read on for the unique experience of Kim Kockler, RD, Food Safety & Nutrition Manager for Coborn’s Inc.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
I started with Coborn’s, Inc. right out of college in 1994. Working in Research & Development was my first position. This led to working in Quality Assurance and ultimately becoming the QA Manager. During this time, I took on the role of generating nutrition labels for our company, which continues to be a function within my current role. Having this experience in labeling led to an opportunity as a Database Nutritionist with the University of Minnesota’s Nutrition Coordinating Center working on food and nutrient databases. In 1998, Coborn’s saw a need for food safety guidance within their stores and created a position, which evolved into Food Safety & Nutrition Manager a few years ago. The Food Safety Department started as a department of one and has grown into a team of five. My team includes, auditors, trainers, label specialists and Coborn’s first Supermarket Dietitian. I am very proud to have played an integral role in the development of our retail food safety program.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
I feel the turnover within our perishable departments has been one of the biggest challenges. When I started in my current role, I became a ServSafe instructor in order to certify our key store management employees and help them achieve Certified Food Manager status. With the turnover, though, in these departments, there was also a need to assist stores in ensuring new hires were properly trained in food safety prior to starting in their role. About 4 years ago, I implemented an on-line food safety training program for all our perishable department employees. Within this past year, in an effort to continue assisting out stores with the task of training employees in food safety, one of my food safety auditors has transitioned her role into one that focuses mainly on training versus auditing. We have found this to be very well received by our stores.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
With the primary focus of my positions being in the area of food safety, I wish I would have taken more classes related to food microbiology.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
I have been very fortunate in that Coborn’s, Inc. has allowed me the autonomy to develop the food safety program into what it is today. I am very grateful to work for an organization which respects my role and the knowledge/guidance I can provide in the area of food safety.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Early in my career, I became a ServSafe instructor. Minnesota offers great annual workshops to those that teach certification courses. In these workshops, they provide training in a number of current food safety topics, which have assisted me in keeping up to date in the ever-evolving area of food safety. I have also taken many self-study courses, participated in various webinars, and read to keep current on food safety regulations. Most recently, I achieved the certification of Certified Professional – Food Safety through NEHA (National Environmental Health Association).
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
It has been a vision of mine for many years to be more involved in providing nutrition guidance/education for our guests. Three years ago, with the assistance of one of our District Managers, we were able to create the position of Supermarket Dietitian. This position was filled by Ashely Kibutha. She has been a tremendous asset to our company and has truly made this position come to life! We are now looking to expand our team of Supermarket Dietitians so we can reach more of our communities.
About Coborn’s Inc.
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.