RD Close-Up: Allison Primo, MS, RD, LD, Health & Wellness Strategy Manager at Schnucks
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at Schnuck’s. How has it changed since the pandemic?
I’m currently the Health and Wellness Strategy Manager at Schnucks and I split my time into two main priorities. The first piece is to set and execute the health strategy for our 112 Schnucks stores and the second is to assist with the growth and development of our EatWell, natural foods stores. For our EatWell initiatives, I help create and oversee the ingredient standards that influences our product assortment and marketing messages, working closely with our merchandising team to ensure this banner resonates to our target customer and differentiates itself from Schnucks.
My role has shifted in a number of ways during the pandemic. Programs that were once in-person changed to virtual such as our cooking classes and kids field trip programs. Without the opportunity to do much in person at the store, our efforts shifted to connecting in bigger ways with partners/sponsors like our sports teams, fitness, and community partners to share our health initiatives with their groups through email and digital efforts and drive traffic to the stores instead of hosting our own events in person.
What's the story behind your experience in retail?
I've always been drawn to the grocery store. When I was younger, I constantly tagged along with my mom, scoping out all the items on the shelves to see what was new or looked interesting to try. Once I was able to drive, I'd volunteer to help mom with getting groceries, taking way longer than needed as I perused up and down each aisle taking it all in, often grabbing things not on my list as they inspired me to craft new dishes for my family. Fast forward to college when during my sophomore year, the nutrition department sent out a voulnteer opportunity to help with a holiday cooking class at Schnucks. I signed up and who was there? None other than Kara Behlke, their dietitian. I didn't realize Schnucks had a dietitian so I asked her a few questions about her role and told her that I was getting an emphasis in culinary arts along with nutrition. We kept in touch and later that summer, she launched the first Kids Cooking Camp at Schnucks; I helped her develop the content and structure for the classes. When I graduated, I continued into a combined internship/masters program, and upon completion, took a job in public health working for the Snap-Ed program in South Carolina where I taught the Cooking Matters program. This role still drew me back to retail as I had to shop for all the groceries for my classes and took groups to the store for grocery stores tours on a budget. I kept in touch with Kara at Schnucks and when I moved back to St. Louis a few years later and she had an open position, I started working as a contractor and eventually came on full-time into my current position.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry? Learning how to manage the up and down roller coaster ride of retail. The environment is fast-paced and constantly changing so you have to be able to pivot quickly or stop certain projects and initiatives if something that aligns with the business priorities is being asked of you. I constantly have to remind myself that even if the request is out of my comfort zone, it offers a chance to learn something new and build up my skill set, making me more marketable and helping with my professional development.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
I wish I would have known more about business and marketing. There is such a strong need to know how to market yourself and your programs in order to be successful in getting your message out that having some basic marketing classes in school would have helped.
Has there been anything specific that help you moved forward in your role?
I have been really fortunate to have multiple great women leaders that taught, supported, and challenged me, and at times, saw the potential in me and my work before I could. This inevitably helped build up my confidence and pushed me to grow personally and professionally into the role I am in today.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
The program I'm most proud of is our Good For You program. Just launched in January of this year, this program helps customers identify and keep track of their healthy purchases at Schnucks. It took a lot of hard work and collaboration to set this up and we are still in the foundational period, but it is setting us up to grow in a big way with reaching our health-minded customers and helping them take steps forward on their health journey. You can learn more at Schnucks.com/goodforyou.
Bio: Allison Primo, MS, RD, LD graduated from St. Louis University with her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition with an emphasis in culinary arts. She continued on at SLU to complete her coordinated dietetic internship and Master of Science in nutrition with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. Allison has been a practicing dietitian for over five years and is currently the Health and Wellness Strategy Manager at Schnuck Markets based in St. Louis, Missouri. When she isn’t creating easier ways for customers to eat a little healthier, Allison enjoys cooking with her two little girls, spending time outside and enjoying delicious food with family and friends.