RD Close-Up: Raman Khatar, MPH, BSc, RD, Sr. Manager, Health & Wellness, Save-On-Foods
By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND
Please describe your role at Save on Foods.
I started my career with Save-On-Foods, a western Canadian grocery retailer operating about 200 stores, nearly eight years ago. I entered the company working on recipe content, meal solutions and overseeing our Nutrition Tours program. I eventually took a role in marketing, and grew from Supervisor to Senior Manager, where I had the opportunity to lead a team of marketers dedicated to our specialty banners and private brands. Recently, I moved into merchandising as Senior Manager of Health & Wellness. My role includes developing the company’s health & wellness strategy, planning and executing on programs that achieve a whole-company vision for health & wellness. This includes supporting everything from product development and selection and placement to customer communication, technology, digital strategies and in-person health services in our stores.
What's the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at your retailer?
After practicing as a clinical dietitian for a few years, I learned I was passionate about prevention rather than curative health. This led me back to school to complete my Master of Public Health, where I fell in love with the concept of supporting community efforts for better health outcomes. Timing was on my side, and after finishing my MPH degree, I was lucky to land a job with Save-On-Foods. Ultimately, there’s no better place to impact food choices than the grocery store! I started working at our head office and learning the ropes of retail through all my peers and superiors. I quickly learned that there is never a dull day in retail.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
There has been no shortage of challenges, but my biggest challenge has probably been proving ROI, of not only my own position as a dietitian but also of the programs I am trying to implement. Like most businesses, bottom-line matters and if you’re not able to drive results and show a return, by improving either brand perception or revenue, you put your programs at risk. Another challenge that stands out to me is making health a priority for your grocer. We know customers are driven to choose their retailer for many reasons – price, value, quality, etc., so it is important to try and find a place where health can integrate or fit into the brand’s DNA and not fall off the radar.
What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail?
The complexity of it all! As a customer, I had no idea of all the moving parts involved in the background of grocery stores—from operations, to supply chain, logistics, merchandising, marketing, IT, etc. I was fascinated to learn that if I wanted to implement something as simple as a coupon, it would involve several stakeholders.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
The hardest part of being in a fast-paced environment like retail is getting facetime with leadership and executive to help push your programs forward. The best way I have dealt with this is continuing to socialize my plans horizontally and with my direct supervisor, so that I can gather their input and feedback and refine my plans to make them even stronger when ready to present to executives. I’m also a big believer in controlling the things you have control over—like your mindset! If you can continue to stay resilient, positive and showcase your work, you are still making progress.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that helped you moved forward in your role?
I would have to say my greatest success at Save-On-Foods has been building and nourishing relationships with people around the company. I have developed not only great mentors and sponsors but also built strong friendships with coworkers. This has allowed me to learn from those that have grown up in the retail world working in a broad range of areas; from marketing to merchandising to operations. Having an openness to learn from their experience, in combination with built mutual respect, I’ve been able to develop and present thoughtful, results-driven plans, while continuing to support the growth and development of the people around me.
Is there a program or initiative of which you are most proud?
I am proud of our Nutrition Tours program and how I have been able to evolve it over the years. The program, being over 30+ years old, had been functioning a long time without a solid infrastructure. With the help of my team, we were able to restructure the program, add regional coordinators, build a standard operating procedure for our dietitians, and refresh all marketing materials to update the program. Furthermore, when the pandemic threw us a curve ball, we were able to adapt and change the offering from in-store to virtual so we could continue to provide this very important service to our communities.
About Raman: Raman Khatar has eight years of experience working as a retail dietitian for Save-On-Foods, based in Vancouver, Canada. Raman completed her BS degree and Dietetic Internship at the University of Manitoba in 2009 and went on to earn her Master of Public Health from the University of British Columbia in 2013. Her past work experience varies from clinical dietetics, to supervising international nutrition projects with the United Nations. The one thing Raman cannot live without is her morning latte, and as a through-and-through west coaster, she enjoys spending her spare time soaking in the beautiful outdoors, traveling around the world, trying out the coolest new craft brewery or cafe, and honing her golfing skills.