RD Close-up: Kara Behlke, RD, Director Health and Wellness Strategy Schnuck Markets, Inc.
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Tell us about your roles at Schnuck Markets, Inc.
I started with Schnucks in 2012, creating an in-store nutrition program in one store as a test concept. In this role, I partnered with merchants and buyers to source healthier products, started a celiac support group, sought to engage customers in new ways through in-store nutrition events, and worked on company-wide nutrition marketing programs. I was then promoted to the Associate Director of Brand Strategy, working on a company rebrand. This included conducting consumer research, managing agencies, creating an advertising campaign, and more recently working on the redesign of private label products. This past October, I was promoted to the Director of Health and Wellness Strategy, where I am working to develop Schnucks’ overall corporate health and wellness strategy.
What is a challenge you’ve had to overcome in the retail industry?
Marketing was not part of my dietetic coursework in school and most roles in dietetics don’t include marketing responsibilities such as managing a creative agency. This was knowledge I had to acquire and skills I had to develop over time. I appreciated the challenge and saw these experiences as opportunities to learn and grow.
What has helped you move forward in retail?
The nutrition knowledge that dietitians bring to the retail setting is a differentiator and sets us apart from other functions of the company. I see it as a unique perspective for finding business solutions. I have also found that being willing to try new things and embracing opportunities outside of your subject-matter expertise is a great way to develop new skills and develop a greater understanding of the business.
What skills are most important to be successful in the retail setting?
First is the ability to always think of the customer first and what matters most to them. Nothing is more important to a retailer than their shoppers, and keeping them a priority will help RDs be successful. Because of the fast-paced nature of the retail environment, flexibility and the ability to deal with ambiguity are essential. Developing your business acumen is also essential in retail as it’s not a skill we learn in dietetics training. Finally, to be effective at managing relationships at retail you have to have good interpersonal skills and the ability to see things from multiple points of view.