RD Close Up: Erica Flint, RD, CD, Dietitian at Kwik Trip, Inc.
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
What's the story behind your experience in retail?
I originally graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology knowing that I wanted to work with people. After spending some time in the workforce, I realized I had chosen the wrong career path. Nutrition had become a passion of mine, so I went back to school so I could share the benefits of something I loved with others. While in school I had the opportunity to intern at Kwik Trip and quickly realized that the retail environment was exactly where I wanted to be. As I graduated, a position for a corporate dietitian opened and I was offered the position.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Presently, it’s been working through and keeping up with the changing regulatory environment. Following the delays and anticipating what changes are in order with menu labeling as well as the Nutrition Facts Panel could be a full-time job. As a retailer with more than 20 locations, we worked hard to prepare ourselves for menu labeling only to have it delayed at the last minute. There was a significant investment of time and money in that project so it’s certainly been challenging to know how much time and money to invest in these areas.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I had taken some business and marketing classes. Having that background would have complimented my degree nicely. Fortunately, my mother was a category manager for 30+ years so growing up I had learned a bit about that world and when you’re immersed in business every day you tend to pick it up pretty quickly.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
I was not prepared for the media outreach that comes along with being a retail dietitian. I didn’t have much experience with the media so becoming comfortable seeing myself doing an interview or reading my words in print was initially a challenge. Like with anything the more you do it, the more comfortable you become so I’ve learned to embrace the awkwardness of it. We have a really great PR team at Kwik Trip as well who have taught me a thing or two. Plus, my kids are still young so they think it’s cool when they see me on the news or in print!
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
All the retail dietitians I have met have done so many great things. I am constantly inspired by the different programs that are implemented, great articles that are being written, education being delivered etc. Hearing about these innovative ideas and learning from my peers is what keeps pushing me forward to create change.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
One of the initiatives I am most proud of is Kwik Trip’s work with the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA). Kwik Trip teamed up with PHA back in 2014 and have made a number of changes to our stores base on the commitments we formed. We’ve made more fresh fruit and fresh vegetables available in our stores, more whole grain items, more low-fat dairy options, created our Eat Smart guide that helps guests select smart choices, formed a Healthy Concessions program to create interest in selling better for you foods at concession stands, installed bike racks at our new store builds (and rebuilds) and employees get a free piece of fruit for each working day. We’ve also joined the Drink Up initiative through our PHA agreement to encourage our guests and employees to drink more water.
Erica is a new member of the RDBA Advisory Board.