Retail Dietitian Close Up: Shari Steinbach, Meijer
For the past 23 years Shari has worked as a registered dietitian (RD) in the grocery industry and has served as the Healthy Living Manager for Meijer, in Grand Rapids, Michigan since 2003. In Shari’s role, she manages consumer health communication, community events, nutrition programs, and solution selling strategies with a team of four other dietitians.
Shari and her team serve as corporate spokespersons on food and nutrition issues and provide monthly television spots on several local TV stations reaching millions of consumers. Her team also provides numerous presentations to community groups and professional organizations. Their timely nutrition and food product information is distributed through a variety of educational brochures and social media.
1. Tell us a little bit about Meijer.
Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer that operates 200 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. As a pioneer of the “one-stop shopping” concept, our stores include large fresh produce and meat departments, as well as pharmacies, electronics departments, garden centers and apparel. www.meijer.com
2. What’s the story on your experience in retail and your position with Meijer?
I started working in retail in 1990 as the first dietitian at Spartan Stores when I realized I wanted my job to focus on helping people stay healthy. I felt the grocery store was the perfect place! I worked at Spartan for 13 ½ years and really learned the retail ropes - thanks to the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and a small group of other retail dietitians.
I have been in my position at Meijer, as Healthy Living Manager, for almost 10 years and have been able to add four additional RDs. Our jobs as regional Healthy Living Advisors are never boring. Last year our team conducted 398 media interviews and 337 community events/presentations, reaching over 26 million consumers. We report into the Marketing Department but partner internally with many teams including Public Relations, Merchandising, Pharmacy, Product Development, Private Label, Human Resources and more.
3. What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
The challenges I faced at the beginning of my retail career were linked around just learning about the industry and how I fit in. Now I have wonderful challenges and opportunities related to the high demand for our services. My team can no longer keep up with the requests we receive and our internal departments and vendor partners understand the value we bring to the business. I hope to be able to grow our team in the future. What an exciting time to be a retail RD!
4. What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
It’s an ongoing process but networking, reading, and participating with organizations such as FMI, the Food and Culinary Professionals (FCP) Dietetic Practice Group, and now RDBA is essential. I also have an incredible team of dietitians who have a variety of expertise (chef, fitness, education) and we share and grow together. They are awesome!
5. What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
That I need to “toot my own horn” and it’s essential to link with other departments. (Ok, that’s 2 things!)
6. Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
Our team really focuses on driving sales by showing shoppers how to make mealtime easy, affordable and healthy. Our recent 65-page book, Easy Meals, Healthy Families, puts our information in an easy to follow guide and our shoppers love it. The positive consumer comments keep us motivated!