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02/01/2012

Diet Makes A Difference

By working with dietitians, we can adjust our attitudes toward food, sleep and overall healthy habits to stabilize our energy and manage disease.

How grocery stores can help change lives and turn a profit.

As more grocery stores around the country continue to invest in broad-based health-and-wellness initiatives, many are adding resident expertise to their staff with in-store dietitians, present company included.

In addition to grocers' making them more accessible, affordable and approachable, dietitians create an interesting point of difference while fostering symbiotic relationships between stores and their customers.

I see dietitians serving a multifunctional role as life coach, psychologist and proud parent cheering clients on from the sidelines. In fact, I've been seeing a dietitian for almost a year, and she has not only given me the tools to feel better, but has also helped me realize that many of my hang-ups with food had nothing to do with food at all.

Dietitians can also make living with disease more manageable. There are a host of diseases and conditions that are greatly affected by when, what and how much we eat. We often forget that food is fuel, not a substitute for courage. By working with dietitians, we can adjust our attitudes toward food, sleep and overall healthy habits to stabilize our energy and manage disease.

Not surprisingly, however, many consumers have lost their way in a hodgepodge of misleading health claims and the demands of daily life. Personal nutrition coaching is arguably the most efficient way to overhaul eating habits. Many grocery stores make personal nutrition coaching more affordable by charging a lower fee than those in private practice and teaming with health insurance companies, making it free for their members.

Boosting the Bottom Line

Beyond the good will, however, are ample opportunities to boost the bottom line with personal nutrition coaches. In the past, grocery stores have focused on adding more products and specialty subdepartments like sushi and gourmet cheese. But there are few departments that can be added to a grocery store that actually sell services versus products.

In addition to the fee-based returns that can be generated by in-store nutrition coaches, dietitian services increase sales across the store by encouraging home cooking. Indeed, a significant obstacle to both healthy eating and grocery store sales is the prevalence of restaurant meals. Personal nutrition coaches are an excellent opportunity to spur incremental sales in multiple departments throughout the store, not only by patronage of their services, but also by the various related food items that they're now more confident selecting, purchasing and using.

Personal nutrition coaching meshes well with grocery stores because dietitians can promote themselves at low cost while enhancing the shopping experience of health-conscious customers. They guide customers carefully through the aisles, choosing products according to each specific need.

At our store, we provide recipe cards and make available as many gluten-free and low-sodium samples as possible, so customers with specific dietary needs are able to enjoy samples around the store while learning that eating right and cooking for special diets isn't so hard.

In addition to sampling and store tours, dietitians also serve as a store's "health-and-wellness ambassador" by helping answer questions received through company web-sites and smartphone apps, organizing support groups, and visiting local schools, gyms, community organizations, businesses and doctors.

Their biggest selling point, though, is that they're available for customers to interact with in a more casual, less clinical environment. To attract as many customers as possible, their services can also be promoted via weekly ads, on-air commercials, mobile communication, websites, e-mail and in stores, with signage and announcements.

Dietitians can help eliminate frustration and inspire confidence in shoppers while giving their local grocer a dynamic opportunity to enhance loyalty and build relationships with customers.

It doesn't get any better than that.

The author can be reached at [email protected]