Retail Dietitian Close Up: Carrie Taylor, Big Y
Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Carrie is the Lead Registered Dietitian for the Living Well Eating Smart program. She began her career as a nutritionist for Virginia Tech’s Center for Research in Health Behavior in Blacksburg, VA. Working as nutritionist, personal trainer and co-author, Carrie aided researchers in testing an innovative weight management study for adults.
From 2003-2005, she served as lead Nutrition Educator for the University of Massachusetts Extension Food Stamp Nutrition program in Fall River, MA where she designed and taught nutrition education for low-income preschoolers, 2nd and 3rd graders, as well as their families.
Carrie obtained her Bachelor of Science Degree from Virginia Tech where she majored in both Exercise Science and Dietetics. She also completed her American Dietetic Association internship with Virginia Tech.
Carrie was a 2009 Go Red! “Leading Lady” for the Greater Springfield American Heart Association, a 2010 inductee for The Griffin Report’s Women of Influence in The Food Industry, is one of the Massachusetts Dietetic Association’s 2010 Recognized Young Dietitians of the Year and the 2011 recipient of the Western Area Massachusetts Dietetic Association’s Special Recognition Award. She has served on the board for the Massachusetts Dietetic Association and Western Massachusetts Area Dietetic Association and is currently on the board for the Pioneer Valley Division of the March of Dimes.
1. Tell us a little bit about your retailer.
Big Y Foods, Inc. is a family-owned grocery store based primarily in Western Massachusetts and the state of Connecticut with a handful of stores in Eastern Massachusetts. We 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 your retailer.
I have been a supermarket dietitian for the past eight years. I entered the industry with Big Y the summer of 2005, hired to run the Living Well Eating Smart program, which is a community marketing program focused on pairing shoppers with better-for-you foods in our stores. The program is anchored by a bi-monthly newsletter with extensions into the community through a free “Ask the Dietitian” service via e-mail, telephone and mail, nutrition workshops, local newspaper columns, weekly television tips, radio tips, and now an in-store dietitian service. Our team consists of two corporate dietitians with two contract dietitians offering in-store tours in a handful of locations in the Springfield, MA and Hartford, CT region. I report to the Director of Advertising and Marketing and have done so since the program’s inception.
3. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Learning an entire new culture than the ones I had experience with previously (i.e., academia and non-profit public health), while attempting to incorporate business and sales skills learned directly on the job day-to-day.
4. What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
Every retailer’s culture is different—what works with one will not necessarily work at another. Therefore it is imperative to lean on management mentors for guidance when implementing new programs.
5. Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
Not having experience working in a grocery store prior to joining a food retailer definitely creates an interesting learning curve. Not having this frame of reference made it a bit tricky for implementing a company-wide marketing program. Speaking to as many people within the company, from all levels of management and responsibilities, was essential.
6. In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward? If yes, tell us about this.
Being extroverted, confident, hardworking and open to critical feedback is a must. Especially when stepping into a position responsible for creating a new program while ensuring its profitability. You learn as you go, but you need to have the initiative and self-assurance to believe you will succeed. Additionally, having powerful allies within the company’s structure is possibly the most important aspect to succeeding and moving forward.
7. What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Learning directly from those I work with each and every day has been the primary source for gaining skills and knowledge necessary to succeed within the specific culture here at Big Y. For the industry as a whole, networking with fellow supermarket RDs at various symposiums and meetings where we share experiences, ideas, concerns, and desires has been most helpful.
8. Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
As the Lead Dietitian for Big Y, the outcomes from the success we continue to see with the anchor of our program, the newsletter, is my proudest moment. Programs come and go, and the Living Well Eating Smart newsletter continues to roll on which has empowered us to bring in a second full-time corporate dietitian and now two in-store contracted dietitians. Ensuring registered dietitians are the voice of nutrition expertise in the Western Massachusetts and Connecticut region has been a continuous drive for me—and the success of our newsletter ensures this continues to happen.