DINUBA, Calif. — Kimberli Carroll began her career working in the fresh produce industry, serving as the director of marketing for the California Tomato Commission for six years, and also as the marketing manager for a family-owned product company, PTG Management Co.
In 2001, she joined Dinuba, Calif.-based Ruiz Food Products Inc. as the marketing manager for its foodservice division, and was promoted to director of marketing for the foodservice and c-store divisions that same year. Today, Carroll is senior vice president of sales, foodservice.
“As director of marketing, I started on a journey working with industry associations to understand all the elements of the c-store industry. We were really new to the c-store industry and it was starting to evolve. We had the good fortune to work with 7-Eleven as our first major c-store foodservice customer,” Carroll recalled.
In 2003, Ruiz introduced its Tornados product into the c-store space as an answer to declining roller grill sales, and Carroll spearheaded the effort. It not only allowed Ruiz to grow its overall foodservice business, but also has become one of the top roller grill products in the United States, available in a wide variety of flavors and spice levels.
“Foodservice has become such an important part of the c-store industry in the last few years,” Carroll explained. “We have wonderful customers who really work with us to partner for success. It’s been an amazing ride, and the team we have here is amazing. It’s a good company to work for where the values are strong and the integrity is so high.”
Because Carroll became the marketing director for the California Tomato Commission at just 26 years old, she was accustomed to being one of the youngest — and often the only woman — in the room with her peers. Today, she said there are many more women involved, which is helpful in the c-store industry where the primary customer target is women.
“Women have become significant in the industry at every level, and I’m so honored to be among the women who are helping to drive the industry forward,” she noted.
One of her favorite parts of the job is creating and building the right team, something she believes she’s been successful at doing. And one of her greatest accomplishments so far has been participating in the creation of the Tornados line of products.
“To be part of that was exhilarating. That is what is so meaningful to me — to look beyond the trees to see what the future can be, and partner with the right people to make sure we get there,” Carroll said. “Here I am 50 years old, and I feel like every day is a new day, and I’m very excited about what we still have available for us to do and accomplish.”