Working Solo as a Retail Dietitian

Working Solo as a Retail Dietitian

May 20, 2015

By Karen Buch RDN, LDN

A retail dietitian working solo is faced with unique challenges and must be proactive and strategic when deciding how to manage time, focus efforts and build collaborative relationships across the organization. Success is not possible without the support and assistance of both peers and executive leadership.  

Define Who You Are
As you define your role in the company, ensure that it is aligned with the company’s mission, vision and values and short and long-term goals. Over time, you will develop a professional persona and reputation within the organization. Taking the time to connect on a personal level with others, including key influencers across departments, will help to ensure that perceptions match reality. As you seek to develop relationships and understand others, you also will be better understood and appreciated.

Define What You Will Contribute
Dietitians have varied professional abilities and strengths. But just because you can do something well, doesn’t mean you should. It’s easy to get pulled into working on projects or tasks that aren’t related to your highest priorities. There are finite hours in the day. Prioritizing how to spend your time to deliver maximum results is critical. Also, consider how to harness the time, talents and abilities of the others across retail departments to help achieve more through synergies. 

Define Where to Go from Here
As the subject matter expert, you are the professional who is best equipped to outline and communicate a vision for the company’s health and wellness strategy, but it will likely take subtle influencing skills to gain approval and buy-in from decision-makers. Illustrate how moving health and wellness initiatives forward can contribute to the company’s long-term goals and objectives and set a manageable strategic plan that defines key priorities over the next three to five years and the tactics and resources that will be needed to execute. 

Define Why You Are an Essential Part of the Team
There was a time when retailers could go to market without a retail dietitian on staff. However, in today’s competitive environment, it is becoming a standard practice. But that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. What are the specific contributions you can make to add the most value and cement yourself as a permanent part of the team? Communicating accomplishments should be done succinctly, in the proper context and with good timing to come across as informative rather than self-promoting. And, remember to give collaborators credit for their positive contributions to your success.

Define How to Grow & Remain Competitive
Growing your health and wellness program doesn’t necessarily mean adding staff. There are creative ways to do more without additional headcount. The real questions may be "What value do you currently bring to the company alone compared to the value of what could be accomplished by adding more dietitians?” “Would you be able to improve customer engagement and speed to market for new programming through expansion?” “Are you ready and willing to manage a team?” In any case, you will need to decide whether what you are doing now will remain the best approach to meet the needs of tomorrow’s shoppers. Evolution and innovation are essential to remain competitive. Whether you decide to formulate a business case to justify desired expansion or you decide it is best to continue to go it alone, you will need to successfully align others around your vision for a successful future.

About the Author
Karen Buch, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who specializes in retail dietetics and food & nutrition communications. As one of the first supermarket dietitians, she is a recognized trailblazer and expert at translating nutrition science into practical solutions for consumers. Karen is owner and principal consultant at Nutrition Connections LLC, chair of the Food & Culinary Professionals Supermarket/Retail subgroup and contributing author to RDBA Weekly. You can connect with her on twitter @karenbuch and visit