RD Close-up: Heather Ray, MS, RD, Food Content Editor at Hy-Vee
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at Hy-Vee.
I oversee recipe development and culinary content for Hy-Vee.com. Every month we create dozens of stories that feature new recipes, healthy tips, and how-tos for consumers.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at Hy-Vee?
My background is in writing, editing, and recipe development for food magazines and cookbooks; some healthy, some not. But eventually my interest in nutrition got the best of me. In 2014, I went back to school to get a master’s in nutrition. Two years later, I began the search for a job that blends content creation and nutrition. That’s when I found Hy-Vee.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Because most of the content my team creates is digital, I see the retail industry as more of a tech industry. I work in a building called Helpful Smiles Technology (HST), where we’re constantly innovating new ways to exceed customer expectations. For me, that translates to delivering nutrition and recipe content across a number of digital platforms.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
I wish had been more prepared for a life in digital marketing, but honestly, it shifts so quickly that you just have to jump in and start learning.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Because technology changes so fast, it’s not easy to keep up with the latest applications and best practices. But it’s necessary. I’ve always felt that the only way to do this is to surround yourself by talent, which is easy to do here. And stay informed. I subscribe to a lot of digital trade magazines and set Google alerts.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that helps you moved forward in your role?
I work closely with a food technologist that keeps me up to speed with new culinary trends; a digital marketing specialist who is full of awesome ideas; and I have a boss who gives the green light for exploring the “what ifs.” We’re all hungry to be a part of the next best thing for customers; that’s what keeps us moving forward.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud? Tell us about it.
I’m proud to be a part of Hy-Vee’s health and wellness initiative. Hy-Vee has a dietitian in every store, and while I don’t have the same daily customer interactions that they do, I’m able to create content to support their efforts.