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From Concept to Action: Reimagining Health and Well-being

Think of a Retail Dietitian as Your Chief Health and Well-being Officer. Then consider everything a strategic health and well-being expert can do for you.

Updated 10/2020

Working with dietitians in retail has been a thing for years. It’s funny to me though, how many people think this “only” means in-store tactical execution of an event, with the metric being how many people showed up for a tour or how many coupons for healthier products were used. While these are incredibly important moments, they are just one aspect of a newer, bigger strategy potential that could provide even more benefit to people, planet, and yes, to profit, too.

We have the potential to help improve public health while increasing customer loyalty. You share good information that helps your shoppers and cuts through the confusion? You bet that’s going to build trust and relationships.

Consider the interests of consumers/shoppers today:

  • Health and well-being is the connection of people, planet, and profit.
  • There are many wanna-be self-proclaimed health “experts” maximizing their megaphone and putting out erroneous information. Usually with good intentions, but that doesn’t excuse the havoc this can wreak. Replacing this noise with a trained professional’s input is transformational for audiences and organizations.
  • We must make make real science relatable and share practical tips, not spew facts. This is done by having a health and nutrition professional lead those decisions and guide the implementation of that type of information responsibly and usefully.
  • We must – and do – care about individuals and understand the need for a successful business (otherwise, where will the people you want to help buy their nutrition/food? No grocery store, no options, no good).
  • Social media chatter about saving the planet and reducing #foodwaste is really actually about meal planning, how to properly and easily prepare delicious meals, and navigating the tens of thousands of products a typical American grocery store has. When done correctly, it addresses people’s concern for environmental stewardship, food budget, supporting farmers, and more.

Here is your initial action list to maximize what we dietitians can do:

  1. Consider the strategic implementation of health and well-being programs versus one-time marketing programs. This means looking at it as a lifestyle move, a way to do business, and a consideration for everything a shopper may purchase. It’s a culture shift. Treat sales like a shopper approaches meal and snack time. Can a person build a sandwich with what you have on sale? Is your BOGO spice sale mix and match? Pretty much no one needs two giant bottles of dry mustard powder. When you have a June dairy month sale, this doesn’t mean orange juice and eggs. Organize your marketing message to match food groups in MyPlate. This would be tremendous for reducing confusion and at the same time helps build trust with shoppers (including thought leaders!).

My dietitian translation (i.e., why these are a strategic health and well-being move): Many people these days are time-starved, not confident in cooking skills, and lacking balance. A sandwich is 2 or 3 food groups, can be made by almost anyone, and is a fast, enjoyable, and balanced meal. Make it easy to make a healthy choice that nearly everyone, regardless of cooking skills, can be successful with. Make your ad a “playbook” for nutritious meals. It’s okay (and smart!) to lead with taste and price. The meal planning point of view helps organize it into a useful tool for shoppers.

Herbs/spices are an enjoyable way to add flavor minus the sodium. Make it easier to make a good choice with smart BOGO sales on spices. A sale that enables a stock up on multiple herbs and spices is good for business and good for health.

Orange juice and eggs are not nutritionally equivalent to dairy foods. Having them in the refrigerator case does not make them dairy from a food point of view. It’s a location, or planogram, move to call them dairy or include them in dairy sales promos. It’s a nutrition move and an educational opportunity to shift sales to mimic the food groups in MyPlate. Happily, June is dairy month, orange juice day is in May, and egg day is also in June, so why not have a little more fun (that is accurate) and celebrate all three? Think of the fun you can have with these three festive occasions in social media. Brunch, anyone?

2. Have a strategy for fads and trends. Do you really want to be all in on a fad that fizzles in a few months? No. That doesn’t mean you ignore them – it means you work with your credible expert (dietitian) to help highlight the components of a fad that have some legs to stand on. Case in point: many current trends encourage people to increase their vegetable consumption. Regardless of your “food politics”, this is a pretty solid move since there is some indication this is one of the most under consumed, but important food groups. Plus, it’s one of your fresh departments, and encouraging people to eat their veggies becomes a win-win-win.

People benefit from the nutrition.

The planet benefits from the avoidance of sending them to a landfill where they contribute to greenhouse gas.

The profit advances because you are selling fresh product and reducing shrink. 

This gets me personally/professionally excited. It’s not business against people. It’s people and businesses working together, with people looking for solutions that businesses provide.

health and wellness solutions in store
Me moderating a “health and wellness strategy in retail” panel

3. Understand what a strategic health and well-being professional brings to the table. Consider it a Chief Well-being Officer that has the potential to benefit everyone involved, thinking through the health implications, the cultural relevance, the science, and more. Get this point of view at the decision-making level. Make this health professional an elevated, senior level position with authority and accountability. This means hiring for the skills and experience this type of responsibility and vision requires. Like any profession, new professionals offer a different asset than a seasoned professional. This also enables you to move past the important, but limiting, metrics of how many people attended a store tour or used a coupon. Health and well-being is an integral part of today’s business strategy where consumers are looking at how the business conducts themselves and how their values line up with the individual shoppers’ values. Maximize the connecting factor, with a dietitian like me convening accurate content and uniting the experts from farm to table.

Farmers, processors, retailers, marketers, communications/PR pros and healthcare professionals are a collective dream team. Don’t bench any of them, and don’t expect the center to be the point guard. In other words, utilize your network and bring in the subject matter experts so you streamline your efforts with actual credible, useful information. If you expect someone other than a nutrition professional to provide nutrition information, it will fall short – and in most instances, providing health expertise without a health expert involved is actually a liability.

Game on.

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.