Disruption in the Aisles: Thriving Amid Retail Mergers & Acquisitions
By Monica Amburn, MS, RD, LDN, Sr. Director of Health & Wellness at Vestcom
As retail dietitians, we regularly navigate a tricky path between managing business requirements while providing meaningful and effective wellness guidance for supermarket shoppers. This is a task that is complicated enough under the best of circumstances. But as many of us have experienced in retail, the only constant is change itself. There have been many ‘disruptors’ recently, from the rise of e-commerce to the growth of small format stores, but perhaps one of the most intimidating disruptions happening at retail is the increase of retail mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the last few years. However, these types of changes can bring great opportunities to you and your wellness initiatives if you maintain a flexible perspective while aligning with your retailer’s new strategic plan.
Three steps to success if your retailer is affected by a merger or acquisition:
- Seek to understand why. If your leadership team has not clearly identified the reasons for a significant organizational change, such as M&A, then ask. There is always at least one clear strategic benefit for the parties involved. Once you understand what the key motivators are for this change, you can begin to align yourself and your business unit with the new direction.
- Seek to help. Don’t be a victim to change, be a part of the change. It’s easy to get mentally (and emotionally) swept away in the flurry of activity and uncertainty during a merger or acquisition, but keep in mind that in these times, a new type of leadership and talent will be needed by your newly formed organization. So why not show your retailer what you’re capable of handling beyond the standard “dietitian” role? Perhaps you continue to manage your in-store nutrition program, while taking on a new responsibility that will aid your business unit, or adjacent unit (such as marketing or pharmacy), during the transition period. Whatever your vision may be for your future, or your nutrition program’s future at your retailer, make sure you use this transition period to demonstrate your collaboration, leadership, and vision.
- Leverage your expertise. In case you forgot, the rise of health and wellness-driven solutions in retail is also a significant disruptor to our industry. As registered dietitians, no one else is better equipped than we are to guide our retailers to innovation in this space. Perhaps you have a unique idea for a better-for-you grab & go section in your fresh/prepared department, or an idea on how to improve upon your retailer’s meal kit offering. These are not small, nor insignificant ideas. Keep in mind that Albertsons bought Plated for $200 million in 2017, and Kroger spent the same on Home Chef in 2018 – two major acquisitions which could have been in-house solutions, developmentally driven by wellness and culinary experts. While this is a simplistic and theoretical assumption, it isn’t farfetched. So, if you find yourself in a period of significant organizational change, and you have a new concept or plan that can support your retailer’s new strategic direction, don’t underestimate your ability to contribute. This is a time to speak up to show how you can be a part of the bigger picture, and future success, with your retailer.
Monica Amburn, MS, RD, LDN is a former supermarket dietitian, and currently the Senior Director of Health and Wellness for healthyAisles® at Vestcom. Monica works with the healthyAisles team to deliver customized, full-store health and wellness communication solutions to over 35 retail banners nationwide. For more information on healthyAisles or any of Vestcom’s other service offerings, please contact Monica at firstname.lastname@example.org .