Retail Dietitians Close Up: Elisabeth D'Alto, MARTIN'S Food Markets
Allison Beadle, MS, RD, LD
Editor, RDBA Weekly
Elisabeth D’Alto, RD, LDN, has worked as a registered dietitian for 7 years, with her career ranging from clinical work in long term care and building her own consulting business to working in the field of nutrition communications and media serving as Production Assistant for a nationally-recognized nutrition expert on a major television network.
Elisabeth is currently the in-store nutritionist for MARTIN’S Food Markets in Eldersburg, Maryland. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from Montclair State University, completed a dietetic internship from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, and became a registered dietitian in 2006. She enjoys staying involved in her profession on a local, state, and national level. She currently serves as the 2013-2015 Maryland Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (MAND) Communications Chair as well as the e-Newsletter Editor for the Dietitians in Business and Communications (DBC) Dietetic Practice Group (DPG) and was selected as the 2015 DBC Communications Camp Chair. Elisabeth was also awarded with the 2012 Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year award by the New Jersey Dietetic Association (NJDA). She is originally from New Jersey, but relocated to Maryland in 2012.
Tell us a little bit about MARTIN’S.
Headquartered in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and celebrating its 90th anniversary this year, GIANT Food Stores is a leading retail grocer with more than 200 stores in the Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia region. Operating under the names of GIANT Food Stores and MARTIN’s Food Markets, we employ over 31,000 employees. For more information, visit www.martinfoods.com.
What’s the story on your experience in retail.
I recently joined GIANT/MARTIN’s in 2013 after moving down to Maryland from New Jersey. I feel like my diverse background in clinical, culinary, and communications has equipped me with good groundwork to build upon in the retail industry. For example, working as a Production Assistant has helped me to understand the power of communicating to the mass media through different venues such as television, radio, print publications, and more. I’ve also learned how to translate the scientific research into consumer-friendly sound bites and enjoy sharing that information through articles, blogs, and more. I feel like my current role as an in-store nutritionist takes my passion for food and nutrition and combines it seamlessly with my joy for educating the public, writing, and cooking.
We currently have seven in-store Nutritionists and our program continues to grow as customers see a need for the registered dietitian in the supermarket. We have a diverse group of registered dietitians who bring a lot of skill and expertise to the table. The nutritionists report to Marketing Department, specifically the Director of Marketing and External Communications. Our Marketing Department also works closely with our parent company, Ahold USA, on strategic goals for health and wellness initiatives.
What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry?
Since this is my first retail position, I feel like my biggest challenge is creating a solid foundation of retail knowledge for myself, like learning the retail lingo, trends, statistics, marketing tactics, measuring return on investment, competitors, brands, etc...
What is one thing that you wish you would have known before starting your career as a retail dietitian?
The only thing constant in the retail industry is change. I think that’s another reason why I love it so much. It never gets boring. Change is good and it helps to keep us innovative, on the cutting-edge, and current with industry trends.
Has there been anything specific that has held you back? If yes, tell us about this and how you dealt with it.
Since the retail industry is new territory for me, it feels like I’m on one giant learning curve. Every day I’m learning something new. With that said, I’ve surrounded myself with a great network of supportive retail dietitians who are just one phone call or one email away who can help me in times where I may have questions or need to brainstorm an idea.
In a similar vein, has there been anything specific that has helped you move forward? If yes, tell us about this.
I think having that instinctive entrepreneurial spirit has definitely helped me to grow into this position at a faster pace than I anticipated. Since joining GIANT/MARTIN’S, I’ve been able to network with key industry influences and it has helped to achieve greater insight into this retail business.
What have you done to equip yourself with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the retail industry?
I’m a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) as well as two dietetic practice groups, DBC and the Food and Culinary Professionals (FCP), as well as FCP’s subgroup for Supermarket Dietitians. I’m also a member of the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance (RDBA), which is an excellent resource of retail dietitians. I’m continually reading cutting-edge articles from the FMI Daily Lead, Supermarket Guru newsletters, Supermarket News, and of course, the RDBA newsletters. I attend webinars and workshops that are related to both business & industry as well as nutrition & health.
Tell us about one of your programs or initiatives that you are most proud of and why.
I recently completed an 8-week Associate Weight Loss Challenge for my store which involved 12 associates. The program consisted of an initial 30 minute individual consultation to create an individualized plan, two 15-min check-up consultations throughout the 8 weeks, weekly weigh-ins, nutrition education, and a Weekly Nutritionist Challenge. The 1st place winner lost 20 lbs and 7.8% of her initial body weight. The top 3 winners with the greatest percentage weight loss will receive MARTIN’S gift cards.