Retail Dietitian Close Up: Tina Miller, Meijer

Retail Dietitian Close Up: Tina Miller, Meijer

January 15, 2014

Tina Miller, MS RD is the Meijer Dietitian and Healthy Living Advisor for East and Mid-Michigan. With over 20 years of experience as a registered dietitian, Tina reaches thousands of consumers weekly through community events, media appearances, and educational presentations.  

Tina is a frequent guest on local TV news programs including WDIV TV4 Detroit, WXYZ TV7 Detroit, and FOX2 News Detroit. She also is a weekly contributor to the Lucy Ann radio show heard on 1290AM with her accompanying Healthy Living blog found at the Lucy Ann Lance show website

Tina completed her undergraduate degree in Dietetics at Madonna University and subsequently interned at the Detroit Medical Center.  She received her Masters of Human Nutrition from Eastern Michigan University (EMU).  She also serves as Adjunct Lecturer in the Department of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at EMU. 

Tell us a little bit about Meijer.

Meijer is THE original super center with a great reputation for “fresh” produce, meats, and seafood.  We are a privately-held, family owned business with a focus on the importance of family at the heart of our organization.  Meijer has just over 200 stores, headquartered in Grand Rapids Michigan, in five states--Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. 

What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position?

I’ve been with Meijer for six years and love my job!  I like to think that our team is unique.  We are supportive, have great leadership, and have varying skill sets – from RD’s who are chefs to experts in fitness.  Our strengths complement one another, which really adds to the success of our team. 

Our team is managed by Shari Steinbach, MS RD who reports to our Communications / Public Relations leadership.  Shari’s vast experience in the retail industry has helped to keep us ahead of the health and wellness curve. We have five dietitians, each of us responsible for a geographic region.  I cover East and Mid-Michigan regions.  Since we are a “regional” model, we rarely do individual store events rather we focus on those activities and events that reach the greatest numbers of consumers.  You’ll find us doing educational cooking presentations at health and wellness expos, regular media (TV/radio) segments, social networking including Pinterest, blogs and twitter, and creating useful consumer tools to encourage healthy eating which includes writing bi-monthly in-store magazines, “cookbooks” such as our Easy Meals Healthy Families guidebook, and maintaining resources at our Meijer healthy living website including weekly menus and allergen information.

I’ve been part of retail nutrition since the mid 1990’s.  At that time I owned a private consulting business with another RD and we were lucky enough to win a corporate contract with the state office of a national grocery retailer.  We worked with this retailer for nine years, until the Michigan office closed.  At the same time, I had just finished my Master’s degree at Eastern Michigan University and was offered a full-time lecturer position there, where I taught until I went to work for Meijer.  Networking really pays off!  Six years ago, I received a call from our manager, Shari, who was looking for a dietitian to cover East Michigan for Meijer.  Shari and I served on a state 5-a-day coalition in the 1990’s when we both worked for competitive retailers.  We respected the competitive confidentiality of our employers, but did work together for the common good of the 5-a-day mission.  Shari was an incredible mentor. 

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?

Saying no.  We have so many wonderful opportunities to teach consumers about leading healthier lifestyles, but we are limited by our schedules! 

What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?

The lingo!  Grocery retailers have their own language and identify stores by numbers.  So, my Northville Michigan store isn’t referred to as Northville – it’s called #54.  The lingo is common in the industry and it would be beneficial for an RD who is interested in working in retail to familiarize themselves with some of the more common retail terms.

Has there been anything specific that has held you back?

I don’t think this has held me (us) back, but it has slowed growth of our team.  As with any expense, you have to be able to demonstrate ROI and this is no different for our dietitian team.  However, we don’t have a specific product line that is supported by sales to measure our impact.  So it can be difficult at times for regional dietitians to demonstrate their positive impact on store sales.

In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward? 

Mentoring and training with other retail dietitians has been invaluable.  Those opportunities with FCP’s Supermarket sub-group and FMI and organizations and industry groups such as Oldways Preservation & Trust, PBH, and National Cattlemen’s Beef, and most recently RDBA have been great resources that have helped me learn how to be effective in the retail and business realms – educational opportunities that we really did not have in our dietetics education setting.  This is one reason why I often mentor dietetic students (as my schedule permits).  It’s a bit selfish, too, since I find that eager and interested students reignite my professional enthusiasm.

Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.

A few years ago we were approached by a group of public health educators to do “NuVal® Training” for Michigan Community Health Educators.  (NuVal® is the in-store nutrition guidance system that we use at Meijer). Shari and I have trained over 400 community health educators in Michigan, who in turn teach their clients and patients about how to shop for healthier foods using NuVal® at Meijer.  I really see this as bridging the consumer nutrition education gap between healthcare based dietitians and retail dietitians.  Our Meijer Healthy Living Team received a Health Champion award from our State Surgeon General and a second award from our state chapter of the National Kidney Foundation for our nutrition education efforts and involvement in the community.