Retail Dietitian Close Up: Jennifer Egeland, MS, RND, LD; Valu Merchandisers Company
You worked as a retail RD for 17 years! Tell us about your experience, and specifically how you have seen the field and role has evolved and change.
The supermarket RD role has grown from a nontraditional position to a career path that is now highlighted within the Academy, internship programs and is a sought after position for both new and experienced RDs. I actually fell into the supermarket industry by accident, starting with a family-owned retailer in Kansas City when I moved back home after college. I started as a cashier to get health insurance. After I completed the RD exam, I went to work in long term care, and three months later when I was shopping at the store, the company was looking for someone with a nutrition background to help with their new natural and organic departments. I started as a department manager, became a department coordinator, and then the Natural/Organic buyer.
Through the years, I worked on different nutrition education programs, nutrition tours, community outreach, health fairs, and employee health programs. When I first started, there were no job descriptions. Now there are job descriptions and examples of how to utilize a RD in retail from several sources. Still, there is definitely room for the RD to chart his/her own path, as the job description is very retailer-dependent.
What were some of the most valuable resources to you? For continued learning, and mentorship in both business and dietetics?
The most valuable resources I had were other supermarket RDs that I built relationships with through supermarket RD conventions, networking and seminars. The amazing thing about this career is that all of the supermarket RDs I know have different job duties, and since many are in different parts of the country, they happily share their concepts, ROI and experiences.
How did you decide to take on an entirely new role at a new company?
I have been in the grocery industry for over 17 years, with unique skill set in the natural/organic industry. This opportunity came up at the right time and in the same area where I live. The company is somewhat new at natural and organic foods and has an interest in nutrition education, so I felt this was a way to take my knowledge and experience and have a bigger impact.
Please tell us about your new role.
My new position is Natural and Organic Foods Category Manager for Valu Merchandisers Company (VMC). VMC is a subsidiary of Associated Wholesale Grocers (AWG) who supports the independent supermarket owner. I will oversee the natural and organic food categories in the warehouse, educate retailers about the growing trends in natural and organic foods, and oversee new items and planograms. We are discussing my role as a RD for the retailers and are beginning to plan and develop a new program. I have already started to write health and nutrition related articles for the newsletter and a specialty foods ad. I can be a resource for our retailers from assisting them in hiring RDs, creating nutrition programs, and being a resource between retailers and vendors on educational opportunities.
How will you incorporate your extensive nutrition knowledge into this role?
I can use my nutrition knowledge just like I did for a single retailer, but now I have the opportunity to reach hundreds of retailers, therefore impacting the health and well-being of people all over the Midwest. This position will help reinforce the importance of nutrition education at the retail level. I’ll be a resource and give assistance to stores starting and maintaining nutrition education programs at retail. I can help retailers with hiring, program development, vendor assistance and partnerships and educational material development.
Jennifer has been a Supermarket Dietitian for over 17 years. She earned her BS in Dietetics with a minor in Public Health from Iowa State University and has a Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Kansas State University. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, baking, golf, volunteering at church and coaching her daughter’s club volleyball teams. In 2011, Jennifer received the Kansas City Dietetic Association’s Missouri Emerging Dietetic Leader Award. Jennifer is a member of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Kansas City Dietetic Association, Missouri Dietetic Association, Kappa Omicron Nu, NAPWU and PBHF Consumer Affairs Advisory Group.
Associated Wholesale Grocers Inc. (AWG) is an 89- year old retailer-owned grocery cooperative established in 1926. Headquartered in Kansas City, KS, AWG has annual sales of nearly $9 billion dollars. AWG’s existing full-line distribution centers are located in Kansas City, KS; Springfield, MO; Oklahoma City, OK; Southaven, MS; Goodlettsville, TN; Fort Worth, TX; and Pearl River, LA. The VMC facilities are located in Ft. Scott, KS, and Memphis, TN. AWG currently has over 600 member-owners and services over 3,400 retail outlets in 31 states. For more information, visit www.awginc.com or follow @AWGCorporate on Twitter.