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Research about retailers’ dietitian programs and consumers’ thoughts about meal occasions, sampling the latest better-for-you products and opportunities for peer and supplier networking highlighted Progressive Grocer’s second Retail Dietitian Symposium, held June 9 and 10 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Ill.
More than 100 attendees, including retail dietitians from leading grocery chains across the country, along with suppliers and trade group representatives, assembled for a day and a half of education and idea-sharing in advance of the FMI Connect conference being held in Chicago that week.
Leading the agenda was the results of PG’s latest survey on retail dietitians and how they’re helping grocers leverage a health and wellness message. This exclusive proprietary research, gathered last spring, was featured in PG’s August 2014 print edition.
It was clear by the survey results that retailers who utilize RDs are more engaged with shoppers on wellness issues than those without the position, in all methods of engagement ranging from social media to sampling events. As such, retailers with RDs spend much more face time with shoppers, including group health/nutrition classes (46 percent of grocers with RDs vs. 23 percent without), wellness consultations (61 percent vs. 12 percent), individual or group counseling (59/19), and culinary education (54/23).
Higher Class: Among types of group classes offered, grocers with RDs offered more for basic nutrition (90 percent vs. 70 percent), weight management (90/60) and diabetes education (81/40); the gap narrowed for classes on gluten-free eating (67/60), indicating the growing ubiquity of this free-from segment. Meanwhile, grocers without RDs responding to the survey said they offered more cooking classes (90 percent without RDs vs. 71 percent with) and heart-health guidance (90/71), with a dead heat on food allergies (40/38), again indicating how mainstream this issue has become.
Further, 83 percent of grocers with RDs responding to the survey said their dietitians conduct store tours for customers, 70 percent counsel individual customers (of which 57 percent offer such services free of charge), and 77 percent lead group health and wellness classes (60 percent free).
Beyond the Store: A whopping 86 percent said they have established and maintain community partnerships as part of their wellness initiatives. Among those involved with grocery RD partnerships are hospitals, clinics, local physicians, schools, fitness centers, police and fire departments, health organizations (such as the ADA and AHA), scout troops, business and religious organizations, nonprofits, senior living centers, and the YMCA and YWCA.
In the Aisles: RDs also perform a vast array of services during time spent in their retailer’s stores. Survey respondents named these in particular:
- Offer dietary advice in conjunction with in-store pharmacists, in regards to specific conditions like diabetes and hypertension
- Conduct body mass index (BMI) testing
- Organize cooking demonstrations
- Write articles on wellness issues
- Develop recipes and related merchandising plans
- Lead kids’ nutrition field trips
- Organize health fairs
- Conduct classes with the pharmacist and corporate chef