Interview with Amanda Barnes, MS RD LDN, Retail Consultant in the Philippines
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Tell us about your experience in retail and how you came to live in the Philippines.
My first job in retail was at Giant Food in Washington, DC as an In-Store Nutritionist. During that time, I became involved in the community, making connections with local food banks, as well at the city food council. That position made me realize I was passionate about sustainable food systems so I enrolled in an online master’s degree program in Sustainable and Resilient Food Systems through University of Wisconsin. I then moved to Austin, TX where I started working for Whole Foods private brands. I was on their product innovation team as a Nutrition Product Compliance Analyst. During that time, I was long distance from my now fiancé, who I met in DC. He does international development work and was assigned to the Philippines where I decided to join him.
Please describe how you are working with retailers in the Philippines.
There are dietetics jobs in the Philippines, but not many opportunities in retail so I thought it was the perfect opportunity to start my own business and try to find work with some local food brands and retailers. I now work with Healthy Options, a high-end retail chain, conducting cooking classes and demos. I have also worked with some local brands creating education materials that include recipes, e-cookbooks, and product promotion via social media.
What has been your biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry and now in another country.
My biggest challenge at Giant Food was to make myself known and discover how I could make an impact both at retail and in the community. I had to do the same when I moved to the Philippines. I had to figure out what consumers here wanted and where I would be most successful. The interesting thing about the Philippines is that most people have house staff including a cook, so the cooking classes I teach are offered for these individuals who are preparing the meals. I have certainly learned to be persistent, put myself out there, and keep trying different approaches to see what may work.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career and connecting with retail.
You have to roll with the punches. I think I had an idea of what I wanted to focus on and what I wanted to do with retail but you really have to reach out to customers and brands and ask them what THEY need. I am learning it is best to tailor what you can do after understanding their needs.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that helped you move forward in your work?
Personal connections. Attending face-to-face events and meeting people in person is the most crucial part of what we do. Word of mouth is better than any other kind of marketing from my experience.
Is there a retail program or initiative of which you are most proud? Tell us about it.
Working with my In-Store Chef at Giant Food to do various cooking events in the store. We did a beer and wine pairing event where we worked on healthy appetizers and paired it with drinks found throughout the store. It was such a huge success we continued to do different themes like gluten-free and vegetarian. People loved it, including the store manager because of all the foot traffic it brought to the store.
How do you foresee using your educational background and experiences to help the retail industry in the future?
With my Masters in Sustainable and Resilient Foods Systems I foresee working with more brands that have sustainability goals that are central to their mission and vision. I think that is a trend we are seeing worldwide. It will be important to connect brands to consumers by communicating their sustainability efforts as well as nutritional attributes.
Tour some Philippine supermarkets with Amanda: RDBA Video Tour .mp4