Retail Dietitian Close Up: Andrea Samson, Big Y Foods, Inc.
Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Andrea began her career with an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration from Holyoke Community College and obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Nutrition from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She then went on to complete the University’s accredited Dietetic Internship and currently serves on the University of Massachusetts Nutrition Department Advisory Committee.
Andrea has worked with Big Y’s nutrition program since 2006 and became the second Registered Dietitian for the Living Well Eating Smart program in 2009. She is registered as a dietitian through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, licensed as a dietitian for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and member of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association.
She has a love for all foods (from pomegranates to chocolate!) and truly believes moderation and variety is the key to a healthy meal plan. During her free time she enjoys cooking and baking healthy treats, kayaking and spending time as a family with her son, Jake.
1. Tell us a little bit about your retailer.
Big Y Foods, Inc. is a family-owned and operated company which prides itself on providing exceptional customer service. In Massachusetts and Connecticut, we currently have 60 traditional grocery stores, one specialty food store and one specialty wine and liquor store.
2. What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position for your retailer?
During my undergraduate work, I applied to do an independent study with Big Y’s Living Well Eating Smart program. Because of the success we had working together; Big Y’s lead dietitian, Carrie Taylor, was able to hire me as a part-time nutritionist. By the time I became a dietitian, I was offered the role as Big Y’s second full time corporate dietitian.
I currently report to Carrie as well as our marketing manager and director. My roles vary daily, from working with category managers and vendors to fill our Living Well Eating Smart® newsletter, writing the newsletter, answering customer questions, assisting our two in-store dietitians, writing newspaper columns, managing our Facebook account and taking part in community events – to name a few!
3. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
My father always worked for the supermarket industry, so I had a good understanding of retail from early on. Having this experience along with a degree in business has made a career in corporate dietetics the perfect fit.
That said; the biggest challenge in this environment is continuing to show value and worth in what we do so programs can continue to grow and thrive.
4. What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I would have loved to have more experience in the regulatory arena. Day-to-day we’re constantly working and writing about products – and we need to be sure we’re following rules and guidelines for health claims, wording and so on.
5. Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
When I became more involved with media for our retailer it was a bit of a struggle at first. After getting practice with live television and radio interviews, I now feel much more confident in my abilities. It’s helped me realize that with practice and mentors, anything is possible.
6. In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward? If yes, tell us about this.
When I came into my position, there was already an established program so it was much easier to see steps for growth. Also, having advocates for my success within our organization has helped me move forward.
7. What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Taking part in professional groups (AND, FCP, RDBA) and networking/continuing education opportunities with other dietitians in the industry (FNCE, Shopping for Health) has provided a wealth of resources for me as a supermarket dietitian.
8. Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Taking over newsletter responsibilities has been very rewarding because I’ve been able to build new partnerships with vendors while growing its success.