Interviewed by RDBA Contributing Editor Amanda Rubizhevsky, MPH, NC
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
My retail experience started in 2004 when I was hired as Acme Markets’ Corporate Dietitian. I saw firsthand the impact that dietitians could have in the supermarket environment and I was hooked! Since then I’ve had various roles. I’ve been with Weis Markets, Inc. since 2013 as a Retail Healthy Living Coordinator working at store level. I was initially hired as a consultant to conduct store tours for a new store they were opening, the role snowballed and currently I have a presence at two stores working with our customers and in the communities we serve. No two days are alike and I love the variety that my job provides. I could be conducting a healthy snacking workshop with kids one day and then doing a gluten-free lunch-and-learn at a local company the following day. I host everything from cooking demos, to tasting events to store tours on a weekly basis in our stores.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
The initial transition into the supermarket and retail setting was quite a learning curve…all the new lingo, the acronyms, it was totally different than anything I had ever experienced coming from a clinical setting. Getting to know how things run within my particular organization was vital—figuring out the culture and learning how (and to whom) to ask questions. Once you feel confident in what you’re asking for or talking about and know who to speak to—the sky’s the limit.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
Tough to narrow it down! The top two were probably knowing the grocery lingo and knowing how to translate nutrition into the business world of retail operations.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
It can feel overwhelming to stay on top of all the latest research, fad diets and health & wellness trends and to then communicate it concisely to your customers. Luckily we have a great team of RDs that are supportive and readily share information or brainstorm how to capitalize on a certain wellness trend for in-store events. In addition to our team, daily or weekly emails geared towards supermarket RDs are helpful in keeping me up to date.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Being teachable and having a willingness to seek out help and direction when needed. This can be with my supermarket RD peers or with key members of store management personnel. In our roles, you can often be the only voice of health & wellness at your store, so feeling confident in your skill set, in your nutrition knowledge and in your end goals speaks volumes to those in management. Knowing where you want to end up, the impact you want to have on customers and then being willing to receive suggestions on how to get there has really benefited me and the programs I’m responsible for.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I’ve always tried to create and maintain great relationships with those in my field. I value other RDs; their input, support and mentoring have helped me in numerous ways and I want to pay it forward and give back too. Maintaining those relationships has helped propel me toward developing new skills, gaining confidence and constantly learning how to successfully integrate nutrition into the retail world.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
The cooking demonstrations I conduct in-store are one of my programs that I am most proud of because they have great influence on customers’ habits. I find that there’s so much interest in healthy cooking that tastes good, is easy to make and showcases a variety of nutritional benefits, yet there’s so much hesitation for customers to do so at home. I see behavior changes with the recipes I demo in-store and appreciate that casual yet informative setting to connect with my customers. They value the demonstration, the nutrition info and the opportunity for Q&A with me and with other customers. It’s a fun time that can make a big difference.