RD Close Up: Estee Smoler, RDN, Saker ShopRites, Inc.
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
My retail experience unconsciously began with my love of food shopping. To me, there was nothing better than finding a new and interesting product that would help me put a healthy twist on a favorite dish. My friends and family did not like to go food shopping with me because I would spend hours going up and down every aisle analyzing choices. Little did I know, being such a food detective would make me the perfect fit for a retail RD position in the supermarket. When the opportunity arrived in the summer of 2013 for a position as the first dietitian of Saker ShopRites, Inc. I jumped at the chance.
After a-year-and-a-half as the in-store dietitian, I was promoted to the first corporate dietitian for Saker ShopRites, a position that was created in response to the growing interest in healthy food products and nutrition in the supermarket setting. My position evolved to include many duties, including launching our new Nutrition Centers – a “health food store within a store” concept. I am now responsible for product procurement and merchandising of these nutrition centers, as well as the management and training of of our Nutrition Center Associates, who staff each Nutrition Center.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
In the beginning, the biggest challenge was getting everyone to buy into the importance and value of having a dietitian in a food retail space. However, through meaningful interactions, impactful programs, addressing consumer needs, and increasing sales, the health & wellness program for Saker ShopRites,Inc. continues to thrive. Today, we now have 2 Corporate Registered Dietitians and 17 Nutrition Center Associates.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
All my experiences have uniquely prepared me to be a well-rounded retail RD. As a fashion merchandising major at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, I took business classes and visual merchandising, which today I apply to food instead of fashion. Working in busy restaurants prepared me for the fast-paced retail environment I work in today. It also gave me confidence speaking to many different people learning how to build rapport. My integrative nutrition certification allows me to easily help the consumer of today who is looking for a mind, body, spirit solution to health. Above all, my nutrition degree and dietetic internship, as well as two years of clinical experience have been resoundingly important to being seen as the nutrition expert for my store, community, and entire company.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
On the contrary, I have been extremely lucky to work with a ShopRite family that is very progressive. They see the value in health & wellness and are “all in.” Together we are constantly thinking of new ideas to bring to our supermarkets.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Before the inception of the Nutrition Centers, I always found that I could make the biggest impact when I created destinations for our customers. I am most proud of the Nutrition Centers. When we were building our newest store at the time, rather than integrate the organic, non-GMO, “free from” and gluten free products we decided to merchandise them all together in what is now the Nutrition Center. I created criteria for what products would be found in this specific area and hired and trained staff to manage our “health food store within a store” concept. We have had such an overwhelming positive response to these sections, that this initiative will be company-wide and eventually all stores will have a nutrition center.
For as long as she can remember, Estee was always passionate about cooking good food using the most healthful practices. When it came time to choose a career path, she knew she wanted to help empower others to live a healthy lifestyle and become the best versions of themselves.
She registered in the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She went on to become a certified personal trainer, and Pilates mat instructor in NYC. Estee then enrolled in Brooklyn College, where She earned a Bachelor of Science degree, and then completed the Sodexo Mid Atlantic Dietetic Internship.