Retail Dietitian Close Up: Karen Buch, Weis Markets
Karen Buch, RD, LDN, has worked as a registered dietitian (RD) in the grocery industry for the past 10 years with experience as a Senior Marketing Manager, Corporate Dietitian and most recently, since 2008, as Weis Markets’ Director of Lifestyle Initiatives. In her current role, Karen manages health and wellness programming for both associates and customers and strategic planning for the company’s growing health and wellness initiatives.
Karen serves as corporate spokesperson on food and nutrition issues and, along with her team of dietitians, creates multi-media food and nutrition content reaching hundreds of thousands of consumers. She and her team also present to large and small groups at numerous in-store and community events. Timely nutrition and food product information is distributed through educational brochures and via traditional, electronic, and social media.
1. Tell us a little bit about Weis Markets.
Weis Markets is a Mid-Atlantic food retailer that operates 165 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, and West Virginia. Our stores offer fresh produce, seafood, bakery, deli, and meat departments in a traditional grocery format. More than 130 of our stores offer full-service pharmacies and some also offer CareWorks clinics. www.weismarkets.com
2. What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position with Weis Markets?
I started working in grocery retail in 2003 as Weis Markets’ first corporate dietitian with a focus on providing health and wellness information and meal solutions to customers through Weis Healthy Bites™. In 2008, I was named Director of Lifestyle Initiatives. Since then, my team and I launched a comprehensive Weis BALANCE™ wellness program for Weis associates, Weis Mystery Tours™ children’s nutrition education store tour program, and expanded multi-media nutrition communication efforts. We’ve also strengthened our internal working partnerships with Pharmacy, Merchandising, Marketing, Human Resources, Public Relations, Private Brands, and Fresh Departments.
3. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
When you have 165 store locations and a team of three Registered Dietitians, the biggest challenge is how to maximize time and effort for the best measurable results. Right now, we are challenged with how to harness ‘new’ media such as blogging, you tube, and social media to build relationships with our customers. New challenges will continue to arise, and the key is to view them as opportunities in disguise.
4. What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I made sure to connect with vice presidents and directors from other departments at Weis Markets to learn from their experience. The VP of Merchandising was very supportive, the Director of Advertising helped me get started with television, radio, and print media outreach, and the Director of Public Relations taught me to be concise with my words. All of these relationships helped when it came time to integrate health and wellness programming as part of the day to day operations of our company.
I also got involved early in my career with the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), and Oldways Preservation Trust. These organizations all see the value that Supermarket RDs bring to retailers and customers. I am also a founding member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Supermarket Subgroup of the Food and Culinary Professionals (FCP) Dietetic Practice Group. Now, I also look forward to networking with other retail dietitians as part of the newly formed RDBA.
5. What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I would have known how important health and wellness would become in grocery retail settings across the country and how much fun I would have along the way. I would have worried less back when I decided to make the leap!
6. Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
We recently published a 60-page Weis Kids Can Cook cookbook. It provides kid-friendly recipes to help get children and families back into the kitchen to cook and eat together. We also just expanded our comprehensive Weis BALANCE™ wellness program to nearly 7,000 Weis associates to inspire them to balance work, life, and health.