Career Expansion: Where Retail Dietetics Can Lead You

Career Expansion: Where Retail Dietetics Can Lead You

March 30, 2016
Career Development

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

It’s clear that the role of and opportunities for dietitians working in the retail space continue to expand. More recently, we’ve seen retail dietitians leverage their broadened skills and experience into new positions in the retail industry. Today, we share insights from three of these RDs on their new roles and how they landed them.   

For Molly Bray Yunek, RDN, LD and Jenny Dahl Reicks, RDN, geographic moves were the drivers to find new positions. Molly, a former Community Dietitian at Jewel Osco in Chicago, transitioned into a role as the Health and Wellness Marketing Manager for Davidson’s Safest Choice Eggs. She is now based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota and works from home, collaborating with clients and health influencers to support health and wellness initiatives. Jenny, formerly with Skogen’s Festival Foods in Wisconsin, is now a Technical Nutrition Specialist for Vestcom, also working from home in the Twin Cities. In this role, she manages the data collection process for Vestcom’s healthyAisles nutrient attribute database, which fuels retailers’ in-store health and wellness programs.  

Both Jenny and Molly found that their experience as retail dietitian helped them secure their new roles. “While working for Skogen’s Festival Foods, I had the opportunity to work closely with a shelf-edge attribute program,” comments Jenny. “I wrote several weekly publications in addition to store tours and presentations that made use of this program, and thus had the opportunity to have an intimate understanding of the unique opportunities and challenges that come with use of a third-party program. This unique insight has helped me shape my own processes while working directly with retailers on onboarding and maintaining their specific program through healthyAisles.”  According to Molly, “Getting started (as a retail RD) was definitely a huge challenge so I learned quickly that I needed to network internally within the company, within the local community, and most importantly, with those RDs in the retail dietetic field. In my case, building a strong network and learning how other retail health and wellness programs operate helped me secure my new position.”

Experiences gained as a retail RD have also been beneficial in their new roles.  Molly indicates “I was fortunate enough to build relationships with the marketing team and category managers. I took time to ask questions and sit in on meetings outside of my department in order to gain insight as to what the goals of the business were. This helped me create a framework of understanding of how health and wellness initiatives can be marketed in a retail setting.” Jenny indicates that similar to many retail dietitians, she wore many hats in her role at Festival Foods. She adds, “This diversity in my work day and in my work teams well-prepared me to transition from working directly with clients and hearing their specific needs and concerns to helping maintain and shape a database that reaches hundreds of thousands of consumers. Also, my experience working alongside the different retail teams has helped shape my ability to serve the retail managers, marketing teams, IT, and other retail dietitians I work with today. Finally, I had the opportunity to launch several new programs while at Festival Foods. These opportunities taught me a great deal about the importance of learning how to track ROI, having resiliency with failure, and the many benefits (and some tribulations) that come with working alongside interdisciplinary teams.”

Alyson Fendrick, RD, LD has transitioned from a FTE to consulting role as the Corporate Dietitian for HAC Retail. While the company has stores in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Georgia and Alabama, Alyson is now managing her role from her new home in Des Moines, IA.  When asked how she convinced her employer to allow her to continue in her role from a remote location, Alyson indicates she was open with her employer from the first day they decided to move. “We had several conversations about the future of the program and where we wanted it to go,” she comments. “I started with my direct supervisor and then worked my way up to our VP and finally our CEO. I outlined for them the opportunities we would be missing as well as what we still would be able to accomplish. We both were able to find ways to compromise and meet each other's needs and expectations.” Alyson and her company have agreed to a six-month evaluation period, after which they will re-assess and make any necessary changes to the remote approach. Alyson is clear that time management as well as utilizing social media scheduling and pre-planned marketing outlines are essential to make her remote role work successfully.

The retail space provides a unique opportunity for dietitians to gain new experiences and expand their business savvy. As Allyson, Jenny and Molly show, these experiences and skills can be leveraged to build career paths that continue in the retail industry.