By Allison Kuhn, MS, RD, LD, Director of Nutrition for The Kroger Company
Change, evolution, progress. Powerful words. It’s been said that failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be. The nutrition industry is especially at risk of this. Why? Because nutrition is inherently personal. Everyone owns it. We’ve lost messaging to everything from daytime TV to food bloggers to professional athletes. The reasons for this span back to many years of missed opportunities for thought leadership, branding, and credibility-building for the Registered Dietitian credential. So, now more than ever, we must seek change and innovation that ensures the world is hearing the right messages about nutrition, enabling them to live longer, healthier lives. The higher purpose. Letting go of the “who,” focusing on the “why,” and coming from a place of helping and healing.
At Kroger, the 17th largest company in the world, we have made a commitment to executing our vision, helping people live healthier lives, by positioning food as medicine. Each day, we have the opportunity to impact 9 million customers. We’ve integrated registered dietitians into our healthcare team, developed OptUP, an app that acts as a mobile assistant for healthier shopping, and most recently, initiated a nationwide rollout of nutrition technicians. This role is comprised of passionate individuals who are precisely trained to deliver nutrition education and inspiration in the heart of our in-store shopping experience.
Our nutrition techs represent a true point of innovation in the retail nutrition sector. We’ve partnered with Besomebody, an inspirational, thought-leading organization working to build the world’s best companies from the inside out by connecting people with their passions. Our nutrition tech candidates complete a 4-week intensive training path, led by expert registered dietitians, learning the specific skills needed for the scope of their roles. Many of our candidates are nutrition grads who were victims of the internship shortage, brought back into the field that otherwise held little opportunity for them. And our program data tells a powerful story: measurable improvements in healthy purchases, increased self-efficacy in health decisions, and increased referrals to dietitians, driving clinical outcomes. We are helping people- more people- live healthier lives.
As nutrition professionals serving customers and patients alike, it goes beyond just placing a highly educated resource and hoping it helps, or piling on educational or industry credentials that don’t drive outcomes. It definitely doesn’t include declining concepts that might help people in the name of fear or resistance to change or territorialism. It means creating solutions that are savvy, and even more important in the retail sector, sustainable. It’s about reaching people in the right ways, with the right level of expertise, at the right times and via the right channels. As dietitians, can we lead this? We can. And we should. Because at the end of the day, it’s about helping the most people, live the best lives, period.