What You Missed: RDBA Regional Healthy Living Comp Shop
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
What do you get when you combine 16 retail RDs from across the country, eight different retail chains in eight hours, visits to two greenhouse growing operations, a hands-on cooking experience, a coach bus, and amazing September weather in Minnesota? An incredible opportunity to see best practices in retail health and wellness programming and execution, evaluate your programs against others in the country, and network with talented colleagues in the industry.
Earlier this month, RDBA hosted our first Regional Healthy Living Comp Shop in Minneapolis. Here are highlights from the event:
Retail Grocery Visits. Stops on the comp shop included Coborn’s, Fresh Thyme, Hy-Vee, Kowalski’s, Lunds & Byerlys, and the Wedge Co-op, offering event attendees the chance to view in-store signage, messaging, and retail RD programs and promotions. Hy-Vee rolled out their Healthy You Mobile, showcasing how their RDs utilize the mobile units to conduct screenings, build relationships with shoppers, and promote nutrition services and programs. Stacy Bates, RD, LD, CDE and Director of Wellness Nutrition Services at H-E-B commented, “What’s in my mind is how to combine the feeling of enjoyment you experience when walking into a Kowalski’s store with the obvious presence of nutrition and health messaging in-store at Hy-Vee.” Another attendee commented, “Every retailer highlights health and wellness in a different way. The Comp Shop was a great way to compare and brainstorm on how we can elevate health and wellness messaging at our own retailer.”
Co-ops were a movement that started in the 1970s, and Minnesota has more co-ops than anywhere else in the country. Shoppers are owners of these markets, and features now more common in traditional retailers, including bulk bins, locally grown, and organic foods, actually started in co-ops. It appears that the Wedge may now be leading the industry in signage highlighting women and BIPOC-owned businesses.
New Opportunities. Herbivorous Butcher is a vegan deli in Minneapolis which makes all their own vegan meats and cheeses, selling to shoppers as well as to foodservice outlets. They even offer a vegan “jerky of the month” club. Tare Market is focused on the zero-waste movement, with a goal of helping the everyday person live trash-free by providing package free and plastic free goods. While not traditional food retailers, visits to these outlets provided retail RDs with inspiration on how to bring these ideas into traditional retail, meeting the needs of these shoppers.
Greenhouse Operations. As various agriculture methods are now in use across the produce industry, event attendees had the opportunity to visit and better understand these operations. Bushel Boy grows tomatoes and strawberries in their greenhouses and Revol Greens offers a streamlined facility for the production of various greens in less than 25 days. Topics addressed during these tours included use of insects to eliminate pests, bees in the greenhouse for pollination, testing of nutrients in soil and water to allow individualized feeding of plants, and temperature control during Minnesota winters. One attendee commented on her learnings, “The Bushel Boy and Revol Greens tours were amazing. I came in just picturing a standard farm with fields of vegetables and it was not that at all.”
Networking Opportunities. An opening night dinner hosted by General Mills, a second experiential cooking dinner sponsored by cannedbeans.org, and travel time on the bus created ample time for retail RDs to network with each other as well as key vendor partners. According to one attendee, “the networking and having time to learn about each retailer's structure and primary responsibilities for the RD team is always super valuable.”
On event evaluations, retail RD attendees rated the event a 9.4 on a scale of 1-10, showcasing the value of this event to their roles. The next RDBA Regional Healthy Living Comp Shop will be held in March in California, aligned with Expo West. Based on the event feedback, you won’t want to miss the next one!