My Personal Journey: Growing Career Opportunities in Retail
By Ellie Wilson, MS, RDN, Manager, Lifestyles and Wellness at Price Chopper/Market 32
How do retail RDNs create growth opportunities in retail dietetics? Increasing business skills, evaluating trends and potential business needs, and engaging in clear dialogue with supervisors are all part of the journey.
Consumer interest in food and health is expanding, as evidenced by industry sales data of healthier food items. This trend creates opportunity for RDNs to bring value to retail business as they pursue strong relationships with their customers. Price Chopper/Market 32, the retailer I work for, has explored positioning RDNs in Public Relations, Pharmacy, and most recently in Sales and Merchandising Planning. In 2019, I made the move from the corporate Pharmacy department to the Sales and Merchandising Planning department. This move allowed me to engage Grocery and Fresh departments during planning, learn more about business drivers and how to communicate with business language, add resources to product development and promotion, and locate intersections to leverage nutrition and wellness as part of building solutions for consumers and business.
The Sales and Merchandising Planning department director has limited health background, so part of the journey was outlining RDN training, skills and experience, and sharing how that unique combination can contribute to building business through wellness trends. When I transferred from Pharmacy, I reached out to Sales and Planning team members, to learn their roles and how they measured success. In addition, I focused on projects that supported current and future department business and wellness initiatives.
During that same time, I shared examples of programs and industry articles about retail RDNs and their expanding roles in retail. That included illustrating how competition leveraged RDNs, and examples of colleagues merging their retail experience and professional nutrition training into entirely new roles, such as senior level management strategy and leadership, and digital content team leaders. When we met for my position review, the sum of the efforts to learn new skills, seeking opportunities and exploring where I could support business goals opened the door to discussions about career trajectories and developing a stronger health and wellness strategy. To facilitate communications and pivot to focus on building strategy, I advocated for a change in role and title, discussing options and why I felt it was time for this change. She agreed, but COVID-19’s arrival and impact interrupted the process.
In September 2020, I moved from the Senior Nutritionist role to the Manager of Lifestyles and Wellness. This change will position me to better support the company mission to help our customers feed and care for their families, in the many ways RDNs bring value to food communications. To ensure my growth continues, learning how data is developed and drives decisions, increasing data communication skills to support programs and obtain resources, and engaging across departments to explore how my skills can support their goals have been lessons that will carry me forward in this next level of my career.
Every retailer is different, but I believe there are some insights to share:
- Begin with the business foundation - what is the corporate mission? Is there a link to customer wellbeing the RDN role could leverage/expand?
- Evaluate corporate and department structure – are you in the right department to support expanding nutrition and wellness strategy? Are you gathering industry data, competitive insights, and learning more about corporate goals to support elevating your role?
- Do you understand your supervisor’s goals? How can you support them? Have you empowered them to share the value you bring to the team to corporate leadership?
Opportunity is growing in retail dietetics - being where food decisions are made, at both business and consumer levels, is an employment setting with great potential for leveraging RDN skills. The retail dietetics future is bright!