Retail Dietitian Close Up Kayla Womeldorff, RD, CD: Harmons
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
I started with Harmons 3 years ago as the fourth dietitian for our (then) 15 locations. I had previously been a customer and the first time I walked into a Harmons store, I immediately noticed the signage, healthy checkout, and programs promoting healthy eating with their in-store dietitians. I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I oversee 3 locations, and we now have a team of 6 dietitians for our 17 locations throughout Utah.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
As other retail RDs can attest, time management can be a struggle. We wear many hats, and it’s often difficult to spend as much time as we’d like on every project. However, this has helped us sharpen our focus on the initiatives and projects with the greatest reach and impact for our customers and employees.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I had a stronger background in cooking and culinary knowledge. Since this was my first job in dietetics, I was fresh out of college, and I didn’t have a lot of experience cooking. I cringe a little when I look back at the recipes I was making, and I’m really grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at Harmons to improve my culinary knowledge, both from our chefs, and our dietitians. Recipe development is one of my favorite parts of this job, and helping our customers increase their knowledge of healthy cooking is such a fun part of this position.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
Our dietitian program is fairly new; we are still trying to figure out how to most effectively leverage our skills. We’ve worked hard to establish ourselves as important members of the teams we’re a part of by finding solutions to help make their jobs easier. For example, we’ve started attending the conference calls of department managers so we can answer questions, and educate them on relevant trending nutrition topics that may affect their departments. I recently talked to our meat department managers about nitrates and nitrites.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
We are constantly looking at ingredient lists and packaging for our fresh departments, as well as in-store signage, and paying close attention to the details in all the projects we are involved in has helped us become vital members of the teams we work with.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
As much as I can, I try to be a sponge for information. I’m very fortunate to have 5 talented and knowledgeable RD coworkers, and our collaborative environment has absolutely improved my skills. I also try to attend as many outside educational opportunities as possible. Outside of work, I constantly read food blogs (both nutrition focused and not), and follow the social media pages of news outlets and other health professionals. Staying current on food trends, nutrition research, and culinary techniques is crucial for staying relevant in the retail environment.
Tell us about one of your programs that you are most proud of and why.
I am proud of our Dietitians Choice program, a shelf-tagging system to help make it easier for our customers to find healthy choices. Our team of RDs handpicks the items in all departments based on our strict nutrition criteria, and our pricing team executes this at all 17 locations. It’s something our customers look for when they’re shopping, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about how it really helps them find healthy foods quickly and easily.
Having the opportunity to help people make healthy eating a part of their lives is such a privilege, and that aspect of my job is not something I take lightly.