Grocery-Shopping
Jan 07, 2015 • By

Have you met a “wellness ambassador” at the grocery store?

Supermarket dietitians are a growing niche group of nutrition professionals serving as health and wellness ambassadors within grocery stores.

As a registered dietitian with General Mills’ Bell Institute of Health and Nutrition, I had the opportunity to interview Kaitlin Anderson, a dietitian at Hy-Vee, to understand her role and get her perspective on the future of supermarket dietitians.

Kaitlin-Anderson

Kaitlin Anderson, Hy-Vee

Over the past several years there has been a significant increase in the number of in-store supermarket dietitians. What do you feel has contributed to this growth?

Kaitlin Anderson: Hy-Vee has led the trend by offering the services of corporate and in-store dietitians since 2001 and we have been highly praised throughout the industry for this initiative. But you’re right – there has been a significant increase in the number of retail dietitians over the past several years. Other retailers are simply catching on to the fact that retail RDs provide a whole new level of customer service, creating true customer loyalty which, in turn, increases sales.

 I believe our President and CEO said it best:

“The reason we win as a grocery chain isn’t stores or products; it’s our people caring and making a difference …  If we sell pork and beans for a nickel cheaper than our competitor, our customers will love us all week. However, if one of our dietitians helps a customer change their life or the life of someone they love, they will love us forever.” – Randy Edeker, president and CEO, Hy-Vee

Describe your role as an in-store supermarket dietitian and what your typical day is like.

Kaitlin Anderson: I have worked as an in-store dietitian at Hy-Vee, Inc. in Rochester, Minnesota, for over six years. To summarize my job in one sentence: I make our customers’ lives easier, healthier and happier. Customer service is my number-one priority. I smile and greet customers in the store, recommend healthy products in the aisles, answer questions about food over the phone and e-mail, counsel customers on dietary needs, write healthy catering menus, plan store sampling events, write a weekly newspaper column and offer nutrition presentations out in the community.

What is your favorite part of being a Hy-Vee supermarket dietitian?

Kaitlin Anderson: Every day is different and that’s what I love about this job. I love that I don’t specialize in any one area; instead, I am a variety of dietitians, rolled into one. I have the clinical knowledge to counsel a patient on weight management and the food safety expertise to perform a food demonstration.

What part of your job do you feel has the greatest impact on health and wellness?

Kaitlin Anderson: Every Hy-Vee dietitian would probably have a different response to this answer as we all have different areas of passion but, in my opinion, community presentations have the greatest impact in terms of quantity – because I can motivate such a large number of people at one point in time. However, I feel that personal shopping assistance has the greatest impact in terms of quality – because I can truly change a person’s eating habits by filling his/her cart with the right foods.

What is the best way for a shopper to locate a supermarket dietitian?

Kaitlin Anderson: Start with the company’s website to learn more about the health and wellness offerings of your favorite grocery store and whether the company offers the services of corporate-level and/or in-store dietitians. If your store employs an in-store dietitian, stop at the customer service desk or pharmacy next time you’re in shopping to introduce yourself. Those two departments are most likely to have a copy of his/her schedule.

What do you see in the future for supermarket dietitians?

Kaitlin Anderson: I predict this career path to expand and expect more supermarkets to hire registered dietitians at both the corporate- and store-level. With the support of groups such as the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance and the Supermarket Sub-group of the Food & Culinary Professionals Dietetic Practice Group, retail dietitians have more resources now than ever before. There are currently over 400 retail registered dietitians across the United States – watch this number grow in the years to come.

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