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Determined to effect real change and promote wellness in America, supermarkets, suppliers and promotional boards are doing more than ever before to educate consumers about the health benefits associated with eating more produce.
One meaningful way that the industry is bolstering its health messaging is by teaming with registered dietitians (RDs). Dedicated retail dietitian positions are on the rise, with 60 percent of retailers employing at least one dietitian, according to the 2015 Progressive Grocer Retail Dietitian survey. On the frontlines with consumers, RDs are influential proponents of fresh produce.
“Supermarket dietitians are the link to consumers in stores and are a key to customer engagement,” affirms Stephanie Bazan, market development director of Avocados From Mexico (AFM), in Irving, Texas.
AFM works with its own RD, Barbara Ruhs (who has contributed columns to PG), as well as supermarket dietitians across the country to communicate the nutritional benefits of avocados. “Supermarket RD promotions have a proven impact on incremental sales, while also offering a valuable service in the retail space — providing access to the nutrition experts,” asserts Bazan. “This helps retailers have a competitive advantage, enhance loyalty and increase basket size.”
Ruhs publishes the AFM supermarket newsletter for the retail dietitian network. The publication features nutritious recipes; creative ideas for incorporating more avocados in daily meals, snacks, baking and smoothies; education; and upcoming retail promotions.
“We’ve seen more than a 100 percent increase in sales during supermarket dietitian promotions that included weekly ads, a nutrition newsletter, in-store demos and media appearances,” observes Ruhs. “These dietitians have a variety of ways to connect with consumers, and it seems to be making a huge impact on their purchase behavior, knowledge of the nutrition attributes of avocados, and expanding their culinary versatility.”
Produce for Kids, whose mission is to educate families on the benefits of healthy eating while raising money for child-oriented organizations, has long seen the value of collaborating with in-store dietitians. The Orlando, Fla.-based nonprofit’s new We Heart RDs program aims to supply in-store dietitians with the tools they need to help consumers eat more healthfully.
As part of the program, Produce for Kids ships toolkits to grocery store RDs on a monthly basis. The kits contain recipes, a “What’s in Season” list of the best fresh produce to eat that month, healthy-eater stickers, and more.
“We are hoping that this growing segment of retail dietitians will give the produce industry another avenue to flourish,” says Produce for Kids VP Trish James.
Commodity boards have been invited to participate in the RD toolkit boxes. AFM is partnering on Produce for Kids’ May RD box, while the Watermelon Board, in Winter Springs, Fla., is collaborating on the June/July kit.
Several years ago, inundated with retail dietitian requests for nutritional information and data on apples, pears and cherries, Chelan Fresh hired a team of RDs with different specialties, from diabetes to fitness, to create RD toolkits on the three fruits.
“We wanted to make it relevant to working supermarket RDs and give them the tools they needed to do in-store consultations, demos and school tours,” explains Kathryn Grandy, marketing manager for Chelan Fresh, based in Chelan, Wash.
In October 2015, Chelan Fresh launched two healthy-lifestyle tools for consumers with the debut of its “Healthy You in One Minute” video series and a 48-page “Healthy You in One Minute Handbook.” To date, the company has produced six videos and plans to continue to produce new one-minute videos on a range of topics.
The handbook, according to Grandy, features everything from “how to make phenomenal-tasting baby food” to “how to incorporate fruit into grains to make it easy to digest for seniors.
“We have a very wonderful team of food and health professionals who help us develop ‘Healthy You in One Minute,’ and present the information in a way that’s different, fun and more than just a recipe,” she adds.
For example, the summer edition will feature an educational piece on freezing cherries. “We’re suggesting that consumers buy a bag for now and another bag to freeze for later,” Grandy says.