Retail Dietitian Close Up: Maribel Alchin, Meijer
Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Maribel Alchin, MBA, RD, LDN is a Dietitian and Healthy Living Advisor for Meijer in Illinois. As a dietitian and personal chef, she utilizes her culinary skills and clinical nutrition background every day to help shoppers make healthy meal choices.
RBDA Weekly: Tell us a little bit about Meijer.
Alchin: Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer that operates 203 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. As a pioneer of the “one-stop shopping” concept, Meijer stores have evolved through the years to include expanded fresh produce and meat departments, as well as pharmacies, comprehensive electronics departments, garden centers and apparel offerings.
RDBA Weekly: What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position with Meijer.
Alchin: I have been in retail for four years. We have five dietitians on the Meijer Healthy Living team. Our team reports to Marketing. As a retail dietitian I wear many hats. I serve as a media spokesperson, PR person, educator, chef, salesperson, and writer. My responsibilities include promoting Meijer’s healthy living program by participating in health fairs, expos, lunch and learns for businesses, healthy cooking demonstrations, writing consumer-friendly articles for Meijer’s Healthy Living Naturally magazine and website, creating weekly nutritious menus for meijermealbox.com, pinning on the Meijer Ethnic Food Pinterest board, providing twitter tips, media interviews, and community outreach.
RDBA Weekly: What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Alchin: The biggest challenge for me has been communicating key nutrition messages in the media. Crafting meaningful nutrition messages does take some skill and experience. I really didn’t have any formal media training prior to working in retail. I have learned tips and tricks to boost my nutrition communication skills by attending media training seminars, workshops, conferences, and watching TV segments from my peers.
RDBA Weekly: In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward? If yes, tell us about this.
Alchin: Partnering with health influencers like dietitians, nurses, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Cancer Society has helped me expand my community outreach within our service area. Through these partnerships I’m able to provide nutrition education and promote our healthy living program that helps drive sales and traffic to our stores.
RDBA Weekly: What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Alchin: From working in the hospital setting, I knew that many consumers were lacking cooking skills and needed help applying the science and specific diet recommendations. Many didn’t know where to start or how to cook healthy meals. I then decided to pursue a Personal Chef certification which helped me build my culinary skills. In retail, I use my culinary skills to provide healthy cooking demonstrations for all age groups, cooking classes, create healthy dinner menus for the website, and incorporate cooking tips in my articles and media segments.
I also attend Supermarket RD conferences which have been a great opportunity to network with other retail dietitians and vendors and share experiences and ideas. Phil Lempert’s newsletter helps me stay abreast with consumer behavior, marketing trends and the retail landscape. RDBA is a wonderful resource for learning the retail business environment.
RDBA Weekly: Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Alchin: We recently published a 65 page “Easy Meals, Healthy Families” guidebook written by our Meijer Dietitians. It provides quick, easy, affordable and healthy meal solutions for busy families. The book has been used as a core educational piece for in-store demos, community events, business to business training, and media.