Retail Dietitian Close Up: Monica Amburn, BI-LO & Winn-Dixie
Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Monica Amburn is a registered dietitian and the consumer wellness manager for BI-LO and Winn-Dixie supermarkets. In this role, she is responsible for implementing in-store educational and promotional nutritional programs for consumers in eight southeastern states.
Monica’s professional background also includes fitness, medical nutrition therapy and weight management counseling. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, South Carolina Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and is the 2012-2013 president of the Piedmont District Dietetic Association in South Carolina. Monica received her Bachelor of Science degree in Foods and Nutrition from Radford University in Radford, VA. Monica also completed her dietetic internship at Radford University, and became a registered dietitian in 2004.
1. Tell us a little bit about your retailer.
I work for BI-LO and Winn-Dixie Supermarkets, located in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Tennessee with just under 700 stores between the two banners.
2. What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position your retailer.
I currently work at the BI-LO/Winn-Dixie headquarters in Jacksonville, FL, where I report to pharmacy, but I sit in marketing. For now I am the only RD for both banners, but I have a great deal of support from our corporate marketing and pharmacy teams, as well as our pharmacy associates in the stores. I was hired by BI-LO in early 2010, so I have only been in the industry for about three and a half years now.
3. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
I had to learn an entirely new language along with corresponding acronyms very quickly just to understand the dialog in meetings. Given the fact that I didn’t even know what an end cap was when I started with BI-LO in 2010, I had a lot of catching up to do!
4. What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
I wish I had been exposed to more financial experience prior to joining the supermarket industry. Understanding P&L and EBITDA is critical in supermarkets.
5. Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
I think everyone has challenges in their respective organizations from time to time. I’ve been lucky in that I have had a lot of great mentors and support within my organization as well as outside. There are a few retail dietitians (non-competing, of course) that I keep on speed dial for both problem solving and “therapy” sessions.
6. In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward? If yes, tell us about this.
The support of leadership in my organization is what keeps us moving forward. It is great to have leaders who trust in your abilities, and encourage you to take risks.
7. What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I have probably asked no less than a million questions to anyone who will talk to me in the industry. Whether pharmacists, food brokers, senior vice presidents, store directors, store clerks, I know that they know a lot more than I do about this industry. I want their input so that we can build meaningful and effective programs. Without their input, that is simply not possible.
8. Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
At the BI-LO banner, I wrote the curriculum and script for our K-5 kids field trip called “BI-LO Food Detectives”, which has been a huge success. It is exciting to see kids, often in underserved areas here in the South, be exposed to fun learning experiences with food and nutrition. We could be changing lives by influencing healthier lifestyle behaviors, and that is a pretty cool thing.