As a fairly new retail dietitian, Rebekah Allen shares her enthusiasm and passion to help her customers find excitement in prevention of health issues through food as well as learning and navigating the business scene.
What’s the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
The Dietitian program at Price Cutter started in April this year, so it is still a new program. The company had been contemplating adding dietitians to the staff for several years and with the recent push in better choices and raising customer awareness about nutrition they finally made the jump.
I was one of the first two dietitians hired by the company, and at the time, I did not yet have my credentials. I had worked in retail at various times throughout college, and I liked the pace and the ever-changing environment of sales. When presented with a retail position as a job option for my first career role, I was very intimidated as well as excited to see what could be done with the program. It’s been a steep learning curve for sure, but the program is already showing progress.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
I think so far the biggest challenge has just been adapting to the environment, both on the corporate and customer relations sides. In the corporate arena, business, management and marketing rule. Most dietitians don’t get that training throughout school. It takes time to learn the language and the reasoning behind so many of the decisions made. On the customer side, you have to be ready for anything. Questions arise from those surrounding MNT to food safety to supplements to organics versus non-GMO. The list goes on and on. On both ends, though, I am learning every day from the people around me and while challenging, it’s also so much fun.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
Marketing! It’s so important to be able to learn about your customer base, who they are, what their needs are, and how to reach them. Our company has been working on filling gaps in the marketing department since the program started. It has been a challenge to handle social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Blog) as well as reaching out to traditional media outlets like TV and radio in our area, but without it, no one knows you’re there. If you have a great marketing team, get them a fruit basket or something, because I would bet they are a big part of why programs are successful!
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Being a new professional in general is a hurdle. It is hard to come right out of school and into this field where having a network is so important.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Getting my master’s degree was the first step in setting a foundation of knowledge for any area of practice I wanted to pursue. Since then I have attended several conferences, reached out to other dietitians both in and outside of the retail industry, in addition to listened to numerous webinars and starting the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics certificate of training for retail RDs.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why?
We have a great kitchen in one of our stores that wasn’t being used to its potential for the last year. Since the program started we have done a lot of work to clean it up and get it going again. The first few classes were pretty small, but the size has steadily increased. We are requesting certain products from vendors to use during the classes, and we are turning a profit on them. My favorite part though is getting to see participants learn something new in the kitchen. I learned so much from my mom in the kitchen. It’s a place I feel at home, and I want others to as well.
About Rebekah Allen MS, RDN/LD
Prevention is why I got into the field of dietetics. Not only providing individuals with the information they need to create a healthy lifestyle, but helping them learn how to apply that information is key. I know how to help someone manage their diabetes or heart disease, but I want to reach the population before they get there, that’s why I jumped at the chance to work in retail. Being able to promote healthy lifestyles in the place where the majority of food decisions are made, at the grocery store, allows me to really feel like I am making an impact.
About Price Cutter:
Price cutter is one of the banner names under Pyramid Foods. The 47 store company is employee owned and locally operated. There is a huge sense of community within the company and they are highly involved with local charities.