Retail Dietitian Close Up: Sylvia Emberger, Ahold USA
Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Sylvia Emberger, RD, LDN is corporate nutritionist for Ahold USA, where she provides guidance and technical expertise on nutrition issues, develops recipes and writes articles for store publications, coordinates the Healthy Ideas and Gluten-free shelf-labeling programs and manages an extensive recipe database.
Sylvia received a B.S. degree in Microbiology and later became a Registered Dietitian. Sylvia is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Food and Culinary Professionals DPG and is incoming Technology Chair for the Central PA Dietetics Association. She is a dietetic internship preceptor and on advisory committees for several other dietetics programs.
1. Tell us a little bit about your retailer. (number of stores, locations, etc.)
Ahold USA supports four regional divisions – Stop & Shop New England, Stop & Shop New York Metro, Giant Landover, and Giant Carlisle/Martin’s Foods – which together operate more than 770 supermarkets with approximately 120,000 employees in 14 states and the District of Columbia, along with Peapod, the nation’s leading online grocery shopping/delivery service.
2. What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position with your retailer. (number of years experience, how you got into the field, reporting structure, your role/responsibilites, your team, etc.)
I started in grocery retail in 2008 as corporate nutritionist for the Giant Carlisle division and, in 2011, became corporate nutritionist for Ahold USA. I am a foodie and love gardening and cooking. My previous jobs provided opportunities to work with recipes, develop menus and create systems. As a contractor for a major CPG company I gained expertise in product labeling, marketing and technology. At Ahold USA, as the nutrition specialist, I am a member of the Health and Wellness team which is part of Marketing and Advertising.
3. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Keeping pace with social media and knowing what’s a fad or a trend. My science background is handy for advising the company but I had to cultivate the marketing language that consumers can relate to.
4. What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Staying up to date is a priority. Newsletters from FMI, Supermarket Guru, RDBA and certain blogs are great. DPG listservs and LinkedIn discussion groups provide expert opinions and important links. Networking in-house, locally and nationally provides lots of resources.
5. What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
How critical the role of the supermarket would become in contributing to the wellness of the community.
6. Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
The Healthy Ideas shelf tag program provides customers an easy way to find healthy foods (as defined by the FDA). A customer with heart disease or diabetes can easily find healthy products by looking for the icon on the shelf tag. Even kids can go down the aisle and find healthy cereals that moms would approve! Also, each week I provide a recipe for the web page Eating Healthy on a Budget that features products in the weekly ad.