By: Krystal Register, Director, Health and Well-being, FMI
How does a health care professional get to practice in the supermarket? And what exactly does a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) do in the retail space?
Well, some things just make good sense. We know consumers are looking to improve personal health and gain well-being benefits from the choices they make right in the aisles of the grocery store (based on findings from: The Power of Health and Well-being in Food Retail 2020). We also know that most retailers, along with many food companies, have put dietitians right there in the retail space. It makes good sense.
Before the COVID-19 Pandemic
Retail RDNs, with the unique ability to connect real food to health promotion, disease prevention and overall improved well-being, have been building trust and loyalty with consumers for many years. Who better than a credentialed health care professional to craft messaging and provide resources right in the supermarket? Cue the retail RDN!
Prior to the pandemic, retail RDNs were providing consumer-friendly, science-based guidance, clearing confusion, sifting through research, level-setting fad diets, speaking in the media, teaching cooking demos, providing personalized nutrition services, one-on-one counseling, store tours, and leading classes related to specific issues (such as diabetes, food allergies, celiac support, heart health). Retail RDNs also function as internal consultants providing expert insight to corporate leaders on labeling, nutrition policy, biotechnology, sustainability, strategy, trends, and hot topics. They are strong partners for pharmacy, store leadership, merchandisers, academia and community collaborators.
During the Height of the Pandemic
Consumers have shifted their shopping, eating, and cooking habits (based on findings from: U.S. Grocery Shoppers Trends 2020) and we know they are now looking for convenient, fun and healthy ideas – though we know they are running low on inspiration. Again, cue the retail RDN!
We have seen retail RDNs step up to provide inspiration and encouragement with quick, easy, simple ideas to help with pantry solutions, ingredient substitutions, meal assembly ideas, and creative ways to boost nutrition in the cart and on the plate.
More consumers have turned to online shopping, and in turn retail RDNs have been pumping out omnichannel guidance with website updates and digital messaging for better health. Retail RDNs are providing virtual cooking classes, tele-health sessions, media interviews from their own home kitchens, Instagram videos, and YouTube lessons, many geared towards engaging kids. They are in the community assisting with food donations and feeding assistance programs. They are quietly behind the scenes working to ensure that labels are accurate, and recipes are up to date. They are ready resources for COVID-19 issues, helping to ensure recommendations are grounded in science.
In Days Ahead
Retailers will continue to lean on RDNs for science-based guidance to provide health and well-being solutions in the supermarket, hyper-focused on keeping customers and employees safe and healthy. What the future holds in store remains uncertain, though one reliable truth is that the time is now to leverage the expertise, compassion, and creativity of the retail RDN. The spotlight is shining brightly on the retail stage and dietitians across the industry are ready, willing, and able to tap dance and sing their hearts out to provide the kind of health care that connects food to health for the greater good. Open the curtains and cue the retail RDN! Take it away my friends!