Retail Dietitian Close Up: Melissa O’Brien, MS, RDN, LDN; Jewel-Osco
Interviewed by RDBA Contributing Editor Amanda Rubizhevsky, MPH, NC
What's the story behind your experience in retail and your position with your store?
Working as a retail dietitian had a been a goal of mine for many years. So, I was thrilled to be hired by Jewel Osco as a Community Registered Dietitian in 2013. My past experiences in clinical, food service, and not-for-profit community dietetics helped me develop a variety of skills that I am able to apply in the retail setting. Although my day to day responsibilities with Jewel Osco have (and continue to) evolve, my goal of being a nutrition resource to our customers remains the same.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
As a dietitian in the retail setting it can be challenging to identify and develop programs that effectively influence and educate the consumers. The task of building a nutrition program, while learning the industry, and building relationships within the company has been both overwhelming and rewarding. Our team has found that these challenges can be overcome with persistence, an open mind, and the willingness to make changes in order to grow.
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
Although I was confident in my nutrition knowledge prior to starting my career as a retail dietitian, it would have been beneficial to be more familiar with the industry. As I gain experience I am constantly amazed by what I continue to learn. Each new opportunity provides insight into the many facets of the retail world.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back?
I have always considered myself a confident person, but as I began my career in the retail industry I realized I was outside of my comfort zone. I quickly realized that in order to build a successful program it would be crucial to become business minded, promote the role of a dietitian within the company, and align our team with key individuals and teams. As my confidence has increased our team has been able to progress and grow.
Has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward?
Undoubtedly, being a part of a team of dietitians with varying strengths and talents has helped myself and our programs move forward. I have been able to learn from my counterparts as each of us has diverse backgrounds and skills to contribute.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
Attending industry events with other Retail Dietitians has been extremely helpful. These summits and symposiums provide an opportunity to network and learn from the experiences of others. The Supermarket Business and Industry Skills Continuing Education Program provided by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the education opportunities provided by RDBA have also assisted in bridging the knowledge gap.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of.
Our Build a Better Basket program highlights a “Dietitian’s Choice” recipe in the weekly Jewel Osco advertisement, in store signage, an article in our Fresh Ideas quarterly newsletter, and social media opportunities. I am proud of this program because it has given our team the opportunity to reach our customers and enhance our partnerships within the company and industry. The Build a Better Basket program connects us with vendors, category managers, and the marketing department and benefits both the customers and the company.