How Retail Dietitians are Key to Grocers' Vision for Full-Store Wellness


As suggested by the saying “No one can whistle a symphony; it takes an orchestra to play it,” there is demand for cohesion amid grocery stores’ departments to deliver results.

If we take a look at FMI’s “2017 Food Retailing Industry Speaks Report,” a top worry of senior retail leaders is competition — namely among nontraditional channels and e-tailers — while health and wellness is regarded as a major positive impact in the marketplace. Supermarkets, from small-chain to mixed-retail to big-box retailers, have the opportunity to amplify key health messages through decisions that span the whole store.

The common goal of all retail stakeholders to improve profit begins with the basic understanding that more consumer purchases need to be made inside the grocery store than from outside food establishments. On trend with increased interest in health and wellness, FMI’s “2017 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends Report” found that 77 percent to 94 percent of respondents agreed that food eaten at home is healthier than food eaten away from home.

In fact, Nielsen research suggests that 88 percent of consumers are willing to spend more for healthier food.  More options that acknowledge the varying needs of shoppers, from convenience to cooking literacy, dietary restrictions, budget and flavor, will increase the chances of keeping customers on the retail floor.

The quadruple threat of dietitians, pharmacists, merchandisers and category managers serves as a powerful team. From dietitians coaching balanced nutrition and how to make “all foods fit,” to pharmacists educating on medication use and disease prevention, to merchandisers elevating design and display, to category managers maximizing product impact, these key players can shake up the food landscape. The shared motivation of these influencers is determining where to expend extra effort to stimulate consumer excitement.

Wellness Across the Store

A whole-store approach that’s relevant and earns trust with customers is a focus on wellness. A retailer that delivers consistent health-and-wellness messaging throughout the store experience, from the aisles to circulars, social media and advertising, is a winner in the game of grocery. A chain that understands food trends, knows the population it serves, demonstrates a flair for fare and uses desirable ingredients from all corners of the store strikes a chord with shoppers.

Opportunities to synchronize efforts with other departments of the store include leveraging vendors, events and cross-merchandising tactics. Fine-tune your work with private- and national-brand suppliers in a 360-degree approach to create recipes used in self-serve areas, delicatessens and bistros, with products that can be bought right off the shelf.

As part of a whole-store diabetes awareness event, perhaps showcase the pharmacist’s expertise with blood glucose monitoring using general merchandise and over-the-counter products paired with the dietitian’s guidance on carbohydrate counting using items from dairy and produce. Help shift common consumer perceptions of foods to ones that support wellness, such as highlighting potential heart-healthy compounds in alcohol, homing in on the nutrient density of frozen foods, and broadcasting portion-controlled snacks in the cookie and cake aisle.

Smart food means better food. Supporting our customers’ desires for finding their best health inside the grocery store can inform an action plan in the better-for-you food movement. Boost interdepartmental communication to raise not only sales and reputation, but also customers’ basket size and health numbers.

About the Author

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD
Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian coordinator for The Little Clinic and Kroger. Read More