RD Close-up: Lorelle Del Matto, MS, RDN, CD
By RDBA Executive Director, Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at Metropolitan Market.
Metropolitan Market (MM) is an upscale, seven-store grocery chain located in the greater Seattle‐Tacoma area known for its unique product selection and personal service. Each store has a full deli, an artisan bakery, a kiosk staffed with “culinary artists,” a full-service butcher, kitchen shops, an expansive offering of premium wines, fresh local and organic produce.
I work in a variety of areas including recipe testing, writing and development, nutritional analysis, customer and staff education, private label, quality assurance, meal kits and reporting on nutrition and wellness trends.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
MM was a great fit because I had experience working for a grocery retailer, Safeway, and a food company that owned Fleischmann’s Yeast, Spice Islands and other national brands.
As a nutritionist for Safeway’s corporate nutrition education program, I wrote booklets on a variety of nutrition topics, launched a recipe card program for the meat and seafood departments and created recipes for Safeway’s nutrition magazine.
My next position was as test kitchen and consumer manager for the above-noted brands. The test kitchen team was responsible for product performance testing, creating new product prototypes, recipes and copy for packaging, PR and advertising. The consumer affairs group handled customer inquiries. I became the media spokesperson for the US and Canada.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
I think the biggest hurdle remains overcoming the myth that eating healthfully compromises something - usually great taste. This perception is changing! More people embrace healthy eating as part of a lifestyle, not as a short-term, restrictive “diet.” They’re adventurous about exploring diverse flavors and cuisines to bring excitement to their healthful eating styles. Working in food retail has been a great setting to introduce people to new foods, ideas, recipes and prep techniques.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before started working in retail?
Until I worked in food retail, I did not appreciate what it takes to get food on the shelf and keep it fresh, diverse and relevant 24 hours a day. There’s an enormous amount of logistics and planning orchestrated by hard working people behind each gorgeous display of colorful produce, pristine seafood and meats, fresh bakery items and appetizing, deli foods.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
I’m very passionate about food and cooking. I enjoy grocery shopping and am inspired by what’s new, fresh and seasonal in the market. That’s not the case for everyone. Consumer confusion about health and nutrition can make shopping and cooking stressful chores, especially if they’re addressing a health condition. I’m motivated to help people make informed choices and break down barriers to enjoying food experiences as enthusiastically as I do.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
- Developed culinary expertise. I took a break from my undergraduate studies and went to cooking school in France to give me a foundation.
- Honed communications skills of listening, public speaking and writing. I was fortunate to be media trained for US and Canada and had lots of practice doing TV, radio and print interviews and demos.
- Embraced change and kept up with advances in nutrition science and food and lifestyle trends.
- Understood the business –the myriad issues and challenges of running a food retail operation. Then you can create initiatives that improve customers’ lives and meet business objectives.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Management asked me to report on broad food, “diet” and lifestyle trends and identify ones that are relevant to Metropolitan Market (MM) shoppers. We saw an opportunity to link MM products to several popular eating styles. I worked on the roll-out, identifying products, creating recipes and education materials for store associates and customers. It’s been well received and will serve as a template to address evolving nutrition, performance eating and wellness trends.