Jewel-Osco Retail RDs Share First Merchandising Experience

Jewel-Osco Retail RDs Share First Merchandising Experience

January 14, 2015

By Karen Buch, RDN, LDN
Interim Editor, RDBA Weekly

Recently, I spoke with retail dietitians, Molly Bray RD, LDN and Melissa O’Brien, MS, RDN, LDN about their work for Jewel-Osco, now part of New Albertsons Inc., a privately held grocery company serving the “Chicagoland” area. 

In November 2013, Jewel-Osco hired four Registered Dietitians (RDs) to offer counseling, tours, fairs and demo campaigns to its customers. Initially, each RD was assigned to cover four stores. They now take a different approach and are willing to schedule events and activities in any of the chain’s 180 store locations. In addition, their scope has widened from primarily focusing on patient appointments to becoming more involved and integrated in corporate initiatives and social media outreach. After a year on the job, they’re really hitting their stride to figure out where to focus their efforts. By sharing recaps about store events internally, they find it sparks interest and requests for future events from other store directors. Currently, the Retail Dietitians report to a District Pharmacy Manager.

In November 2014, the Jewel-Osco RDs launched their first comprehensive merchandising program called Healthy Plate Solutions in partnership with the meat department and a vendor partner. After an initial planning meeting with the category managers (CMs) to discuss program logistics, they worked together with the social media team to create a communications plan. They also credit the Assistant Sales Manager of Meat and Seafood, who was instrumental in helping to get the bunkers lined up for in-store displays, sending Daily Bulletin communications and issuing display directives (including cross-merchandising of items such as carrots, lettuce, green onions and water chestnuts). 

Program Components

  • Three promotional weeks were selected to execute the program monthly. In the first week, they promoted a 93/7 ground turkey as a key ingredient in a Turkey Lettuce Wraps recipe and worked with the design team to develop promotional materials to convey the program to customers. Subsequent promotions feature a Turkey Sausage and Egg Breakfast Sandwich and Luau Tacos. 
  • The weekly on-line and print ad include a call-out using a “Dietitian’s Choice” logo
    near sponsoring product in the meat section along with a recipe and product feature in a separate Healthy Plate Solutions section of the ad.
  • Healthy Plate Solutions concept were also featured in-store with key recipe ingredients placed together in a merchandising “bunker” with store signage.
  • They used social media to direct customers to a related blog postwhich was then “shared” more than 120 times by readers.
  • The program also includes in-store demonstrations conducted by retail dietitians. Customer interactions 5 pair a sampling of the recipe with education regarding protein in the diet.  


During the program’s first week, four stores held demos (totaling 28 hours). “There was a 4.5% increase in sales of the demo products during our first campaign week. This was compared to the last week period when the product was on sale at the same price point. We are pleased with these results for a first-time attempt.” They are measuring success by monitoring sales of featured items and tracking customers reached during demos and social media.  


  • Be mindful to include all the right people in communications about the program from the start.
  • Take advantage of time spent in-store to make personal connections with store associates and its leadership team. Introduce yourself, discuss what you currently do and ask for new ideas. 
  • Work with CMs to anticipate spikes in sales and distribute extra product accordingly. By day five of the promotion, the warehouse ran out of product as did the store where they planned to demo.
  • There will be merchandising inconsistencies due to store foot print differences. Allow some flexibility in how they use available space to support the program. 
  • Each RD took ownership of their own demos to make sure they were ready, including rounding up cooking equipment, food thermometer, apron, hair net, gloves, and handling all ingredient prep themselves. Consider, with store director approval, scheduling in-store personnel to assist with ingredient prep to allow the RD to focus more on customer interactions in the future.
  • Vendor partners may develop and offer tookits and demo materials specifically designed for use by retail dietitians.