What’s the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
I am the corporate dietitian for Hy-Vee. I started working for Hy-Vee 20 years ago after working for five years as a clinical dietitian. I was one of the first Registered Dietitians hired by Hy-Vee. My first position was working in the Hy-Vee corporate test kitchen, Quality Control for private label and recipe development. I then had the opportunity to work as one of the first corporate dietitians for the Hy-Vee dietitian program, which started in 2000. It has been amazing to be a part of the Hy-Vee dietitian program and help the program grow and evolve from two dietitians to more than 200.
For the past year, I have been the lead dietitian working on the FDA menu label project for our fresh, food service and restaurant departments. It is a very complex process and involves more than just entering recipes into a database to get a nutritional analysis. It’s a great way to show the skills and knowledge dietitians have to help with this type of project.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Being one of the first dietitians in the company, we developed programs and promotions without many resources, and had to prove the value of having a supermarket dietitian program. But that challenge was also a fun part of the job – to determine and create programs and promotions, many that have evolved and are still being used today.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
A better understanding of the business side of retail.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward in your role?
Our model of having a dietitian at every store has been instrumental in the growth and success of the Hy-Vee dietitian program. We have amazing, talented dietitians who work at the stores and that gives us the ability to tap into the skills, experience and knowledge of more than 200 dietitians. It’s a great resource and peer network that also ultimately benefits our customers.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I’ve been open to learn the retail/business side from corporate buyers, department supervisors, executives and store directors. They are extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Additionally, I learn a lot from my customers.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
One of the initiatives I started in 2009 was the Dietitian Pick of the Month. It was developed to introduce customers to new healthy foods, help the store dietitians focus on one food/message for the entire month and by doing this collectively show the impact on sales. It was one of our first attempts at tracking sales and showing ROI (return on investment). To this day, we still have an RD Pick of the Month, track sales and incorporate into social media, monthly newsletters, TV and You Tube videos, cooking classes and store tours. It’s fun to look back at the very first two products we featured as an RD Pick of the Month – chia seeds and Greek yogurt, which were new products at the time back in 2009 and are still popular and big sellers in our supermarkets today.
Rochelle Gilman is the corporate Registered Dietitian for Hy-Vee. She started her employment with Hy-Vee in 1995. Rochelle received her Bachelor of Science degree and completed her dietetic internship at Iowa State University. Her professional work experience includes employment as a clinical dietitian at Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, Iowa. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; the Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; and Iowa Nutrition Education Network. She currently serves as Food Product Development Board of Directors for Iowa State University, Iowa Dairy Nutrition Advisory Board and is on the Board of Trustees for Adair County Health Services.
She and her husband, along with their son, are fourth- and fifth-generation family farmers. They operate a diversified grain farm (soybeans and corn) and raise purebred Shorthorn cattle. Her daughter is a senior at Iowa State University studying food science.