RD Close-Up: Melissa Casaletto, RD, Healthy Living Merchandising Specialist at Stop&Shop
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at your retailer.
I’m currently the Healthy Living Merchandising Specialist for the Nutrition Partners Team at Stop and Shop. My main role is to oversee our Nutrition Partners “Our Picks” program. The goal of this program is to partner with strategic “better for you” brands and national boards to elevate them as a healthier choice, providing our customers with helpful guidance while promoting our partners brands/products. Our partners are able to choose different merchandising and marketing tactics that we can offer to them. They range from secondary merchandising space, circular features, in-store radio, and magazine features. We have seen a substantial increase in sales for the brands we work with when we feature their items. It’s been a great success for both our vendor partners and our customers. Our customers know that they are brands they can trust because of the Nutrition Partners “Our Picks” logo. That one aspect of my job has me working cross functionally with many internal teams such as, Category Managers and analysts, Merchandising planners, Marketing, E-commerce, Circular, External Communications, Brand Management, and VPs.
I also work on different projects and pilot programs. For example, we are starting to build out a program with our pharmacy partners. I am currently writing up a sell sheet and a business case to present to leadership so this can be included in our playbook that goes out to all of our vendor partners.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at your retailer?
I believe working in retail has always been ingrained in me, but I had no idea it was until I accepted my first role out of my internship. All of my immediate family has worked in the grocery business. My mom worked as manager at Wal Mart, my father as a regional maintenance mechanic at Lowe’s Food, and my sister had a short stint at Lowe’s Food. You could say my family loves grocery stores!
Coming out of my internship, I knew I wanted to go the non-traditional route but was not sure how to find the job I was looking for or to articulate the role I sought. I was able to connect with some alumni that worked in nontraditional roles to better understand how they got started. From there I was fortunate enough to find my now manager, Allison Delaney, was hiring for a Regulatory Specialist reviewing Ahold USA (Stop and Shop, The Giant Co, and Giant Food) Private Label store brand labels. I jumped at this opportunity knowing this was my foot in the door. I spent almost three years in that role. I felt I had learned as much as I could, and knew it was time to move on.
My next role at the company was as a Private Brand Development Manager. Once again, I have Allison to thank for this role. She advocated for me to my new manager that even though I had no experience in business I would be successful. In this role, I developed new items to launch under our private labels, taking projects from idea to shelf. I worked with suppliers to formulate new products, negotiated costs, and worked closely with Category Managers to bring these products to shelf. I really enjoyed this role because I was able to develop new innovative items and learn a new skill set.
Finally, onto my current role. This role is the perfect marriage between my RD background and my previous merchandising role.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
The biggest challenge for me is the ever-changing landscape of retail. In my short five years at the company, I have been through a merger and three reorganizations. You have to be able to jump on board and learn new processes and teams quickly.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
One big thing has been learning about business and analytics. Even if I didn’t change roles within my company, it would have been helpful to understand the business better. I recently took the ACEND Retail Dietitian course and cannot say enough good things about it! The course provides great insight into what being a retail dietitian could look like. If you are interested in becoming a retail RD, that course is worth the investment.
Has there been anything specific that help you moved forward in your role?
Something that has helped me move forward in my different roles at my retailer has always been having an advocate. I would have never been able to move to all the different positions without the support from Allison Delaney and Mark Gilliand, my two best advocates. They have always supported me when I was growing and learning, mentored me in how to navigate the retail space, and they have always been my biggest cheerleaders.
Bio: Melissa Casaletto, RD has over five years’ experience as a retail dietitian and has held many different nontraditional roles at her current retailer, Stop and Shop. Melissa graduated from Simmons College with her BS in Nutrition and Dietetics. She then went on and completed her Dietetic Internship at Massachusetts General Hospital. After the internship she started working as a contractor with Daymon Worldwide supporting the AUSA brands as a Regulatory Specialist. She then moved on to become a Private Brands Development manager bringing products from idea to shelf. Her most recent role is the Healthy Living Merchandising Specialist at Stop and Shop on the Nutrition Partners team. In her free time, she enjoys cooking new recipes, taking indoor spin classes, and watching Formula 1 races.