By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Just when retail dietitians get a handle on the buyer role, they realize that not all buyer roles are the same. In fact, there are distinct difference between the roles based on the category of the store. “It’s essential for dietitians to establish in-roads to the buying teams,” says Stephanie Schultz, MSM, RDN, CD and Sr. Director of Marketing and Communications at Skogen’s Festival Foods. “Identify a colleague who can point you in the right direction and help you navigate the differences.”
A key role distinction is in categories with direct store delivery (DSD) by the vendor, where the supplier comes directly into the store and places product on shelf. This type of supplier-retailer agreement requires significant coordination by the buyer, identifying when DSD vendors can be in store to fill shelves or reset products.
“In commodity driven categories like dairy, it’s common for there to be one pricing, promotion and supply negotiation per year between suppliers and the retailer with ads allocated upfront for the 52 weeks of the year,” indicates Schultz. The challenge is when a significant price change happens when the product is scheduled to be on ad, which can require the retailer to pull it off of ad.
In the Fresh categories like produce and meat, there are many factors that can change scheduled promotions and supply. “Just this year alone,” comments Schultz, “we’ve had Hurricane Dorian and tariffs with key partner countries. Both impact the supply and pricing of products available to retailers and our shoppers.” News media headlines, such as those made about Fairlife this year, force dairy buyers to react quickly, potentially shifting shelf space allocated to this product line.
In the natural and organic categories, ad fees are less given the high number of niche items. This impacts not only the buyers’ actions, but the opportunities for retail RDs to partners with these suppliers as well. “Regardless of the category, vendors can shift where they decide to spend,” adds Schultz. She recommends retail dietitians seek to understand vendor goals so they know how to customize the pitch.
Partnering with buyers is a key element to success for retail RD programs and services. “Seek to understand their roles and their relationships with vendors,” advises Schultz. “Always lead with questions.”