Survey Indicates Opportunity to Build Awareness of Retail Dietitians and Educate Consumers on the Basics

Survey Indicates Opportunity to Build Awareness of Retail Dietitians and Educate Consumers on the Basics

February 11, 2013
Career Development

Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly

Retail’s surge to hire dietitians has resulted in over 400 nutrition professionals making their mark on the aisles.  But the recently released 2013 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Report suggests there’s room for awareness-building and sheds light on what consumers want to learn from dietitians. conducted an online survey of its Consumer Panel on behalf of the National Grocers Association between October and November 2012.  The Consumer Panel is an opt-in, food-involved population of more than 105,000 shoppers that are pre-registered with the site and have submitted confidential demographic information.  A total of 104 shopping attributes were addressed in this year’s survey, which was completed by 2,299 chief household shoppers, 75.5% of which were female.  Through the survey, respondents detailed their experiences, behaviors, and sentiments on what does or doesn’t appeal to them about supermarkets, as well as their purchase influences, eating habits, and nutritional concerns.  

Consumers Trust Dietitians, But Aren’t Thinking About Them at Retail

Although the “Internet” ranked first as the source of nutrition information consumers trust, more than ever in the history of the survey, consumers appear to be turning to health professionals.  “Doctors” took the number two position with 12.0% (up from fifth position and 9.7% last year) and nutritionists/dietitians secured the number three position, with 11.7%. Other sources of nutrition information—traditional media, friends and family, books, ratings systems, etc.—fell below doctors and dietitians, indicating that consumers may be looking for a professional nutritional compass to help sort through conflicting information.

This is good news for dietitians working for retailers.  But what do consumers think about retail dietitians, specifically?

By and large, the survey results indicated that nearly half of consumers don’t think about dietitians in the retail setting.  Specifically, 48.7% said they “don’t expect guidance from a store's nutritionist/dietitian.”  That’s a respectable percentage, but is it really a surprise? Only in the past 5-7 years have retailers begun a significant push to make dietitians part of their brand and strategy. And more than likely, consumers expect to encounter dietitians in traditional healthcare settings—clinics, hospitals, wellness centers, etc.—not grocery stores.  So perhaps consumers have not yet begun to identify retailers as credible resources for health and nutrition guidance.  This represents a distinct opportunity for retailers to build awareness and clearly communicate the value of their dietitian(s).

Consumers Interested in Balanced Diets, Value

Survey respondents who do expect guidance from a store’s nutritionist/dietitian are interested in several types of guidance, and their needs are pretty straightforward. Specifically, these respondents are interested in: 

  • General guidance on a balanced diet, 20.2%
  • General guidance on foods that give good nutritional value for the dollar, 16.6%
  • Best foods for my specific health condition, 9.9%
  • Label reading including ingredients and nutritional claims, 9.2%
  • Guidance towards my individual wellness goals, 8.6%
  • Foods to stay away from for my specific health condition, 6.5%
  • How to cook certain foods, 5.3%
  • Weight loss guidance, 5.8%
  • Foods to go with my fitness program, 2.9%
  • Nutritionally smart holiday entertainment ideas, 2.9%
  • Collaborate with the pharmacist, with my permission, 0.7%

So what does this mean for retail dietitians? Two things: 

 1)  Don’t Assume Your Customers Know You’re There. If you’re not continuously getting the word out about your programs, your resources, yourself, customers probably don’t know you exist.  The key is repetition. A good marketing rule of thumb is that you have to hear something seven times before it’s committed to memory.  

 2)  Focus on the Basics. Remember: you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or come up with outlandishly creative angles to appeal to customers.  Consumers are still interested in and need to be reminded of nutrition fundamentals: the basics of healthy eating, how to eat healthy on a budget, special diet considerations, how to read labels and interpret claims.  

For additional information and to purchase the full 2013 National Grocers Association-SupermarketGuru Consumer Panel Report, visit