State of Our Industry: Retail RD Programs End, Grocery Industry Struggles Financially

State of Our Industry: Retail RD Programs End, Grocery Industry Struggles Financially

November 16, 2016
Annette Maggi
Retail Industry InsightsBusiness Skills

Over the past three weeks, I have learned of significant changes to retail RD programs across the country. Giant Eagle eliminated all their retail dietitians as a part of a broader headcount reduction at their headquarters location. Lunds/Byerlys eliminated their one corporate RD position. Currently, Mariano’s is without dietitians.

These moves are likely aligned with the state of the overall grocery industry. Whole Foods financials have been reported frequently in the news, and they ended their fiscal year with comparable store sales down by 2.5 percent and a net income decline of 5.5 percent. Target announced that Anne Dament, SVP of grocery merchandising and formerly with Safeway, was leaving after just 18 months at the retailer. While various reasons are cited for the staffing change, Target just can’t seem to get grocery right. “Per the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service, we are in the midst of one of the longest periods of food price deflation in more than 50 years,” comments Sue Borra, RD, Chief Wellness Officer at the Food Marketing Institute. “While this is not the first time the industry has had to face declining food prices, this is the first instance where this deflationary period is taking place during an economic recovery, not during a recession. With stiff competition, food deflation and blurring of food retail channels all compounded by the fact that the food retail industry operates on a one to two percent profit margin, the food retail economy will continue to be challenging.”  

While the grocery industry may be facing financial challenges, there are no indications that consumer interest in health and wellness is waning. In fact, consumer engagement in nutrition as well as planet and animal health is only expanding. Healthy living solutions at retail have the potential to drive sales, bottom line profits, and shopper loyalty in a struggling environment.  

Retail RDs must be adaptable and prepared to flex to the shifting landscape of retail, and to this end, the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance is committed to providing resources that help you thrive in the current retail environment. Over the next several months, you’ll see articles and content targeted to help you hone your negotiation skills with external partners and vendors, ongoing dialogue on how to more successful measure and track ROI, and new ideas for funding of your programs. We, too, are adapting to changes in the environment.

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