10 Reasons Why Retailers Should Hire Registered Dietitians

Photo courtesy of Cindy Silver, RD, of Market Basket Nutrition & Lowes Foods

Cindy Silver, RD, of Lowes Foods giving a store tour to customers
Photo courtesy of Cindy Silver, Market Basket Nutrition

Supermarkets hiring dietitians is a pioneering field on the rise. In the last 10 years, the U.S. went from a handful of dietitians at supermarkets to hundreds across the country. Hy-Vee is the largest employer of dietitians, having one in almost all of their stores. Phil Lempert of the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance recently projected that supermarket dietitians will double by the end of 2014. The beginning of this concept goes back to the 1960′s. You can read about some of the history in an older post, The History of the Supermarket Dietitian. If you are a retailer that doesn’t have a dietitian on board, here are 10 good reasons to go ahead and do it.

1. Consumers are asking for it.

According to a 2012 Nielson study, Factors That Impact Why We Grocery Shop Worldwide, health and wellness has come to the forefront of supermarkets because it is a priority of consumers. Other polls by the Food Marketing Institute confirm that finding. In their Helping Shoppers Overcoming Barriers to Healthful Shopping, 66% of grocery shoppers look for solutions to improve their health and wellness.

2. Registered Dietitians are trained in special diets and medical nutrition therapy.

This is very different from a health coach. Would you hire a pharmacist for your store who wasn’t registered or licensed? Registered Dietitians have extensive science based  training. They have a minimum of a bachelors degree and go through an extensive 6 to 12 month accredited supervised practice program. They then have to sit for a national examination to become a registered dietitian in which they have to keep yearly continuing education. Dietitians are also licensed in most states. If false diet information related to a customer’s health issue is given out by someone other than a doctor or a dietitian, you could be held liable.

Currently, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics updated the “R.D.” credential to be “R.D.N.”, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. Every dietitian is a nutritionist, but not every nutritionist is a dietitian. You can read more about the difference on EatRight.

3. Dietitians increase customer loyalty.

Nothing gains customers’ loyalty faster than helping them with a personal health problem. When a dietitian teaches a customer how to eat on their new diabetic meal plan or they help a customer find foods for celiac disase, it can be life changing. This positive experience results in increased customer loyalty and intimacy.

4. Dietitians increase your bottom line.

Dietitians increase your bottom line through purchases made on store tours, after cooking classes/demos, product recommendations, suggestions for healthy meal displays, presence in advertising circulars for meal ideas or healthy tips, media and online presence, and at in-store health events. While this isn’t all the ways they can give you return on investment, their specific credentials give them validity and expertise that other stores don’t have.

5. Dietitians brand your store(s) a destination for health and wellness.

A recent article in Advertising Age, called supermarket dietitians “The Next Big Marketing Weapon”. Supermarket dietitians can instantly brand your store as a health and wellness destination. From a newly pregnant mom who wants to know what to avoid to an older customer who wants to know what to eat for arthritis, a registered dietitian is trained and ready to answer those questions. Having in-store events and store tours, give customers more reasons to come back to get their questions answered.

6. Dietitians help your employees and can decrease health care costs to your company.

Most supermarkets with dietitians on staff have a customer first model. Wegmans is unique and has an employee first focus. You are going to start seeing a shift to employees among retailers with SRDs. This shift is a smart one, since employees can also be a big marketing weapon that can further your company loyalty as well as decrease time off from sickness or health related conditions. Who doesn’t love a program that can save you money? Dietitians are in a unique position to help retailers keep their employees healthy and at work!

7. Dietitians provide solutions for consumers.

Dietitians provide whole health solutions for consumers through one on one customer contact, healthy recipes or the latest in science based nutrition information. They help newly diagnosed diabetics learn to carbohydrate count or a customer with high blood pressure look for products that are low in sodium. A dietitian understands the disease, it’s process, and knows how to help your customer with their health condition. Martha Nepper, RD, with Hy-Vee, helps shoppers learn how to eat healthy on a budget as well as help them understand how to shop with food allergies. You can read more about Martha and the solutions she provides for customers in her store, here.

8. Dietitians can provide a new dimension for your store(s).

Jen Haugen, RD, with Hy-Vee in Minnesota, approached her store with a big idea.  According to Jen,  “My dream in 2008 was to create a program for kids to help them see the connection between good health and fresh food while fostering healthy habits.  I grew up gardening with my family and knew where everything on my plate came from, I wanted to pass on that knowledge and experience to kids to help them create healthier habits through gardening and cooking together.  It’s been a huge success!” Her idea, Sprouts – Get Out and Grow, is now an corporate program. Read more about Jen and the Sprouts program here.

Other supermarket dietitians have contributed unique programs for their chains. Spartan has recently launched an online healthy cooking program for kids that utilizes their registered dietitian to encourage families to get in the kitchen together. Stop & Shop’s dietitians put on a Healthy Kids Summit every year.

Hy-Vee Sprouts w/ Jen Haugen. Photo courtesy of Jen Haugen, RD

Hy-Vee Sprouts w/ Jen Haugen. Photo courtesy of Jen Haugen, RD

9. Dietitians help with food labeling and regulatory issues.

A handful of dietitians work for supermarket in food labeling and regulatory issues of brand name products. Many dietitians have also worked in developing shelf tag systems for their stores to help shoppers make healthier choices at shelf edge. Their knowledge in nutrition analysis and food labeling claims make them an ideal resource for retailers.

10. Dietitians create community, in-store and online.

Dietitians instantly create a community by being available to consumers whether in store or online. Regular in-store tours or cooking classes become a destination for those seeking help with their health. Supermarket RD’s make themselves a part of the community by participating in local events and sharing advice on local or social media. Social media is the newer addition to the equation, but the community is building. RDs can provide health tips, chats, Facebook forums, Pinterest boards, and promote healthy items through social media. Check out what Supermarket RDs are doing throughout the country by checking  out our Supermarket Dietitian Pinterest board.

If you are a retailer that doesn’t have a dietitian, the question is “WHY NOT?” The time is NOW!

If you are a retailer, natural or conventional, that needs help hiring, training, or developing a supermarket dietitian program, I can help! 

Stay up to date on the latest on supermarket dietitians with Supermarket Nutrition’s NEW newsletter, The Weekly Special! Don’t miss out! Sign up now! 

Comments

  1. Betsy,

    Wow! You make the perfect case for every food retailer to hire a registered dietitian or 2 or 3 or more. The ‘secret weapon’ concept is my favorite because the power for increasing customer loyalty and sales of higher profit margin items is what RDNs can influence. We help customers achieve life-changing goals for personal health as we help our respective food retailers grow their bottom line.

    Also, thank you for using my grocery store tour photo…you can tell from my smile how much I’m enjoying it!

    Cindy Silver, MS, RDN, LDN
    Lowes Foods’ Registered Dietitian
    Winston-Salem, NC

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