Retail Dietitian Close Up: Jenna Werner, RD; Inserra Supermarkets
By Amanda Rubizhevsky
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your company?
When I went to college I was asked what I wanted to study and had no idea. The counselor asked me what I loved and my answer was simply, “food and people.” So, how to find a job that blended both of my loves and hi-lighted my strengths. The answer? Nutrition.
Post college, I began my career in the sub-acute care clinical setting. I learned that nutrition is not black and white and that it is the people that make the decisions on what to eat, no matter how much education you provide. After 2+ years in this setting, I moved on to the hospital world and learned so much from watching the flow of this environment. But, it was still not my “place.” I moved on to start a career at retail. As a retail dietitian I was truly able to blend my two loves, food and people and I learned how important it is to connect people to personalized nutrition and show them what foods support their conditions. After a little over two years as an in-store dietitian, I was promoted to manage our growing team of retail dietitians at Inserra Supermarkets Inc. (ShopRite), which currently employs 16 dietitians are spread over 15 stores. In this role I am able to observe an incredible group of dietitians positively impact hundreds of customers each day and I am able to use my unique experience and knowledge to help them continue to grow as retail dietitians.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Learning the lingo! As dietitians we think in terms of “let’s turn science into English for our customers.” But then you throw retail terminology into the mix and it can feel like learning another language! Learn from your colleagues, their insight can help tremendously.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I had more of a business background. If any dietitians still in school are reading this and are interested in a career in the retail space, take some business classes or minor in business. The knowledge is invaluable to this position. Retail dietetics is a true blend of nutrition and business - you need to understand and apply them both.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
My company makes health and wellness a top priority. The support of my supervisor, upper management, the Inserra family, as well as Wakefern, has allowed me to grow not only as a dietitian but also as a business-minded person. They have taken the time to help me develop into a leader, helping me grow, develop and lead my team successfully.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in retail?
I ask a lot of questions! There are so many people in my company that have worked in the industry for 20+ years, I try and take advantage of their experience to learn as much as I can about the ins and outs of the retail space.
In addition, staying on top of industry (retail & nutrition) trends - anything that is out there comes right to the supermarket, in product form or by way of customer questions.
I also love reading the RDBA newsletters and attending conferences to stay up to date with industry happenings.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Over the last year in my new role, I have created a demo system that allows my team to track the impact of their product demos at store level. With this program, I am able to track the movement of the chosen featured items as they directly relate to the dietitians. I gather the data and share the outcomes with upper management, demonstrating the direct dietitian ROI and the strong impact our team has at store level. I get excited to track these outcomes each month and having numerical values to share with upper management has only helped us grow and expand our program. We are pleased that this system has continuously been able to demonstrate the enormous impact of in-store dietitian demos.