Looking at the ROI of retail dietitians

The growing need for an in-store nutrition program and dietitians to run it

I’ve stopped counting the number of patients, colleagues and customers I hear from that cannot maintain their healthy eating due to travel for work.

Well lucky for me, traveling to attend an Oldways Symposium for 120 retail dietitians means eating healthier than at home! The food was so well thought out and executed—if only everyone got to eat so healthy while they’re working.

Besides the fresh food, getting so many retail dietitians together means you learn, network and become inspired with so many fantastic ideas for improving nutrition outreach in a grocery setting.

Although there are more than 400 retail dietitians working in the U.S., the Canadian retail dietitian workforce is just starting to gain momentum. It was exciting to see some of our major chains represented at the symposium with attendance by dietitians from Loblaws, Sobeys, Metro, Thrifty Foods and IGA Fresh St.

Having worked managing the nutrition department at Choices Markets in Vancouver for four years, it was amazing to see the growth in this sector of my profession with almost every grocery chain starting to believe in the ROI of a nutrition program and the essential need to hire dietitians to provide it.

When dietitians are involved in sampling products for example, the sales lift starts at 50% and can go higher than a 100% increase. Dietitians are seen by the public as one of the most credible and reliable sources of food and nutrition information, so they’re stamp of approval on a product carries a lot of weight with customers.

For this reason, a key component of the symposium is connecting with sponsors. They are great source of information with offerings of resources that help inform the customers and support the in-store dietitians.

Many of the produce marketing organizations, like the Mushroom Council and the Hass Avocado board were in attendance and through the sponsorship of delicious lunches, we were able to taste the recipes they have available for use.

Continuing education of in-store dietitians is essential as this leads to increased knowledge for customers and an increased reach for the grocery chain.

For example, sessions at this year’s symposium included dispelling myths about soy foods, learning about healthier options in the beverage category and improving social media skills to provide food and nutrition-related content.

Nudge marketing was another well-received session with fantastic ideas about increasing purchases of fruits and vegetables.

Other ways to track ROI were a hot topic for discussion at the symposium. Increased basket size is one measurable as is increased customer loyalty—these types of measurements are often tied to shopper loyalty programs.

One example I provided—as part of our seminars, talks and tours, we give out Nutrition Bucks (a percentage off purchase). Then when they get used, the till receipt is attached so we can measure our impact on basket size.

Although retail executives are always concerned about shrinking margins and minimizing wage costs, the spend on a retail dietitian program is only going to benefit the bottom line by selling more healthy foods, improved public relations/social media content, not to mention customer loyalty and increased frequency of visits.

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