By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
At RDBA, we often provide advice and encourage retail RDs to look for opportunities to expand their role, drive for promotions, and seek to have influence at a higher level. Program leaders indicate that after five to seven years, RDs are often looking for the next challenge. As two fabulous retail dietitians recently pointed out to me, however, the role of the store dietitian is crucially important to retail companies and consumers and is an extremely fulfilling career for dietitians.
Michelle Mix, MS, RD, LDN and Hannaford dietitian, explains why she loves being a store dietitian. "I love working as a store RD, because I am able to help customers exactly when they need the help. Providing a solution to confusion or an answer to a question at point-of-purchase gives the customer a sense of satisfaction and empowerment in their knowledge. For years, I'd walk by other shoppers knowing I could help someone struggling to read a food label or staring blankly at multiple items wondering which to choose. Now I'm able to walk over, introduce myself as the food and nutrition expert and provide the information."
The Hannaford RDs believe they make contributions at the store level that regional or corporate roles can't accomplish. "We are making direct impacts on individuals lives - not just once but repeatedly, even over the course of several years," comments Michelle. She continues, "One of my customers told me that even my presence in the store (whether he stops to talk to me or not) influences his choices for the better. It's this strong physical presence that gives customers the confidence to choose something new, knowing they can find immediate help if they need it." Allison Stowell, MS, RD, CDN and Hannaford dietitian adds, "If retail companies want to stand out in a very competitive industry, then store dietitians are a must. It is well known that customers are busy and distracted when they come to shop. Store dietitians slow them down, cut through the noise and turn the store into so much more than just a supermarket. With store dietitians on hand to chat with customers, point out new foods and enhance the shopper experience, a retailer knows they have a voice on the floor that is changing that customer’s day in a way that a typical shopping trip doesn’t."
While some store level RDs are looking for a new challenge after five to seven years in the role, Mix indicates that she is "motivated and energized by new opportunities each week to highlight nutrition in the store." She comments, "At Hannaford, we have the flexibility to design our own classes and store tours. I look forward to seeing my customers since many of them I have known for all five years. Building trust with my customers is vital - they see me as part of their community now, a person who they know is there and they can rely on.” Stowell adds, “After nearly eight years as a retail RD, I remain motivated to continue doing it, because I truly believe I have an important message to share, and what better way than to share with it with around 100 people a day! Nutrition is ever changing, and we know there is no shortage of new products and industry trends. This keeps me motivated to learn, change and grow right along with it. I value the opportunity to be such an influential bridge between the food manufactures and the customers they are seeking to reach. When it comes to helping customers navigate the very full shelves of products and all of the “noise” in the supermarket, us store RDs play a significant role.”
The energy and passion both Michelle and Allison have for their work as store retail RDs is infectious. It’s clear that they love what they do, and at the same time, it’s clear that their role as store RDs has big impact for their company.