Retail Dietitian Close Up: Caroline Passerrello, Giant Eagle, Inc.
Caroline (Whitby) Passerrello is the Corporate Dietitian and Manager of Dietitian Initiatives for Giant Eagle, Inc. where she directs the retail dietitian program and plays and integral role in the development of the company’s health & wellness strategies. Caroline is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and was just recognized by the Pennsylvania Dietetic Association with the Emerging Dietetics Leader Award.
1. Tell us a little bit about Giant Eagle, Inc.
Giant Eagle Inc., ranked 29 on Forbes magazine’s largest private corporations list, is one of the nation’s largest food retailers and distributors with approximately $9.9 billion in annual sales. Giant Eagle is also a recent recipient of Grocery Headquarters’ Retailer of the Year Award and the EPA’s ENERGY STAR Retail Partner of the Year Award. Founded in 1931, Giant Eagle, Inc. has grown to be the number one supermarket retailer in the region with 229 supermarkets and 187 fuel and convenience stores throughout western Pennsylvania, north central Ohio, northern West Virginia and Maryland.
2. What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position with Giant Eagle, Inc.?
In 2008, I was approached by Giant Eagle (more specifically, Judy Dodd), to consider bringing my knowledge of nutrition and entrepreneurial spirit to work for them as their first retail dietitian. After two years, we had approximately eight dietitians on staff in stores across two states and three market areas. I saw the need for structure and standardization of the retail dietitians, so I worked with senior leaders to create my current role. I currently report to our Senior Vice President of Health & Wellness and indirectly oversee our 20 retail dietitians.
3. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Balancing. Every day is a balancing act both personally and professionally. Professionally balancing messages that are relevant but within guidelines, pursuing programs that bring value to the customer and the bottom line, planning for the future and executing today’s strategy.
4. What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I seek out opportunities to improve my understanding of all lines of business in our Company and always go into a new situation with big eyes and ears and a little mouth.
5. What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
How resilient and adaptable I would need to become. The retail environment changes constantly and you either thrive on the change or become overwhelmed by it. I was lucky to have a Director dedicate time to coach me and build my resiliency and adaptability–these are hard skills for some dietitians!
6. Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Bringing “Dietitian Picks” to life in our Gourmet Foods Departments (in approximately 75 stores). I was responsible for leading a cross-functional team of Prepared Foods, Nutrition Services, QA, Marketing, Retail Operations, and Health & Wellness Team Members together for a common goal: providing our health conscious customers with a choice when shopping our prepared foods department. Our consumer data indicated that there was a tendency for customers to shop the prepared foods department less after attending a class or session with our dietitians. Armed with this data and Giant Eagle’s desire to be best in health and wellness, I had what I needed to get the go-ahead for this project.
I am also very proud to have created so many jobs for dietitians to meet customers at the point of purchase, which will in turn improve the lives of those within our communities.