Retail Dietitians: Do You Know Your ROI Goals?


Good news for both the retail food industry and consumers: dedicated retail dietitian (RD) positions are on the rise. Sixty percent of retailers employ at least one dietitian and 6 percent of retailers that don’t have a dietitian plan to add one in the next year, according to the 2015 Progressive Grocer Retail Dietitian survey. On average, companies employ 25 dietitians.

For the profession to continue flourishing, RDs must demonstrate a positive impact on return on investment (ROI), according to insights revealed from PG's benchmarking survey. To do so, dietitians need measurable performance goals. Yet, surprisingly, only about half (53.3 percent) of survey respondents said their company sets goals for RDs. Among those who do have goals, more than half (54.7 percent) don’t know who sets their goals.

If you’re among the RDs without ROI goals or need help setting goals, read on. A panel of experts convened at the June 2015 Progressive Grocer Retail Dietitian Symposium in Chicago to discuss the ROI of RDs, including perspectives on goal-setting. The panel members were (from left in photo) Bob Pessel, Director of Pharmacy, HAC Retail; Shirley Axe, Health and Wellness Manager, Ahold USA; Shari Steinbach, MS, RD, Corporate Dietitian, Healthy Living Manager, Meijer; Jane Andrews, MS, RD, Corporate Nutrition Manager, Wegmans Food Markets; and Diane Quagliani. 

Some of their top takeaways are recapped below.

  • If you don’t have goals, find out how to get them in place. After all, without goals, you can’t demonstrate the value of your position to the company or strategically advance your career.
  • Ask management about expected outcomes for your position. Should your goals include a “hard” ROI measure such as a minimum sales percentage increase? Or, are “soft” ROI goals such as interacting with consumers at community events acceptable? Should your goals directly align with your company’s overall strategic plan, or are program-specific goals acceptable? How will your performance be evaluated and when?
  • Set goals that suit your place in the company structure. RDs at the corporate, regional and store levels will have far different goals, as will RDs based in marketing, consumer affairs and employee wellness. Retailer size and the number of RDs on staff matter, too.
  • Be flexible about goals. A goal set in January might need to evolve into an entirely different animal by July, depending on how an activity or program progresses. Also, a goal for a store dietitian in one region might not work for a store dietitian in another region due to differences in customer preferences and demographics.
  • Track your contribution to the bottom line. If your goals include a sales increase, use tools such as loyalty cards and QR codes to track sales related to your programs.
  • Consider vendor partners to drive product sales. RDs at larger retailers often work with category managers to secure vendor support such as monetary donations, samples and coupons for community events and in-store programs. At some smaller retailers, RDs work directly with vendors.
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