By: Annabelle Shaffer, BS, Master’s candidate in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN) have taken on a variety of roles, including clinical practice, public health, and community educators. Recently, a new role that combines all these positions has emerged: the supermarket RDN. Supermarket RDNs are found at retailers across the country, including HyVee, ShopRite, and H.E.B. With the everchanging grocery landscape, supermarket RDNs give traditional grocers a leg up on the competition with non-traditional grocers, such as Trader Joes or Whole Foods.1
Role of a Supermarket RDN
While some retail RDNs can offer Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT), many do not and instead work to promote wellness and healthy eating in employees and the community. To promote healthy eating, RDNs perform grocery store tours, label products according to food trends, product samplings, and cooking classes.2,3 In addition to tours and labeling, HyVee RDNs conduct in-store weight management classes, called Begin, and health screenings.4
Corporate Level RDNs
At the corporate level, dietitians are being tasked with non-traditional roles, such as marketing.2 With social media growing, RDNs are frequently called on to create nutrition-related product campaigns on Instagram or other platforms. This can include recipe development and newsletter writing. These campaigns can increase traffic in stores and boost specific product sales.1 Corporate level RDNs also develop educational programs for employees to increase consumer education at the point of sale and worksite wellness programs.1
The Skillset of a Retail Dietitian
Like all RDNs, retail RDNs are required to complete an accredited bachelorette program, internship, and licensure exam. Additionally, they need to be very personable and have knowledge of business and the food sales industry. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics also recommends a foundation of clinical practice to prepare RDNs for all possible questions shoppers will pose.2
What Makes a Retail Dietitian Valuable?
Retail dietitians can significantly improve the health of their customers and even improve the wealth of the grocer. Grocery stores have minimal profit margins, and a dietitian’s health services can bring shoppers into the store. Additionally, product placement and signage by RDNs can significantly increase sales.5 For example, an RDN developed signage for the meat counters about the benefits of lean cuts of meat, and sales of the preferred cuts significantly increased.2 The increased traffic and sales justify the hiring of RDNs at the supermarket and corporate levels.
- The Value of Retail Dietitians – Today’s Dietitian Magazine. (2019). Retrieved 10 October 2019, from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/enewsletter/enews_0315_01.shtml
- The Supermarket RDN. (2019). Retrieved 10 October 2019, from https://www.eatrightpro.org/news-center/in-practice/dietetics-in-action/the-supermarket-rdn
- Retail RDs’ Impact on Public Health. (2019). Retrieved 10 October 2019, from https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/031115p40.shtml
- Hy-Vee. (2019). Retrieved 10 October 2019, from https://www.hy-vee.com/health/hy-vee-dietitians/default.aspx
- Foster, G., Karpyn, A., Wojtanowski, A., Davis, E., Weiss, S., & Brensinger, C. et al. (2014). Placement and promotion strategies to increase sales of healthier products in supermarkets in low-income, ethnically diverse neighborhoods: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, 99(6), 1359-1368. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.075572