What the C-Suite Needs Now from Retail Dietitians
By RDBA CEO Phil Lempert
As we sadly move into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic with a huge increase in cases and deaths in most cities across the country, consumers are already starting to micro-hoard and retailers including Kroger, H-E-B and Publix have announced quantity limits on certain products.
This time, however, we don’t anticipate the sight of empty shelves. Retailers have been working hard, having heard the warnings for many months that there may be another even larger outbreak, to secure their supply chains and stock up just in case. The quantity limits are being put in place early to allay the fears that many Americans had that they wouldn’t be able to feed their families as they saw the bare shelves.
During the past nine months, many retail dietitians have developed new and expanded roles for themselves within their organizations – on traditional and social media, in telehealth, in-store and especially in the boardroom. The C-suite has opened its doors (and ears) to the retail dietitian to learn and incorporate their skills in order to deal with the changing landscape due to the pandemic.
Retail dietitians have been included in everything from communicating healthy procedures, good nutrition and easy to prepare recipes to fight the pandemic (both within their retail organization and to shoppers) to discussing what changes need to be made within stores (such as selling only bagged produce) to what information to appear on websites about COVID-19 and the products they sell.
What the grocery C-suite needs now from retail dietitians is even more challenging.
As supermarkets prepare to be one of the primary purveyors for the COVID-19 vaccine, this is a great opportunity for grocers to reinforce their health & wellness positioning to shoppers. Some retailers will treat this vaccine distribution as a very efficient operation – stand in line (safe distancing of course) – get the vaccine and get out of the store. Some retailers I’ve spoken to even feel that by the time the vaccine is ready, spring will be here, and they can use their pharmacists in outdoor parking lot settings to make the process even more efficient.
Which is the wrong strategy. The C-suite and retail dietitians should be developing their plans now to create a holistic strategy which has at its core administering the vaccine surrounding the shopper with all the other information and attributes that the retailer has to make them healthier and more aware of the part that nutrition has to play.
This is an opportunity for grocery retailers to share their values and to align with those of their shoppers. We know that over the past nine months many shoppers have changed their primary store for a variety of reasons, and during the pandemic certain retailers have pushed hard to not only keep their shoppers but to attract new ones as well. This is an opportunity to do just that.
The job of a Grocery CEO is tough enough. Their role in managing during the pandemic, and trying to plan for the future is daunting. They can focus on minimizing damage, or look at it as an unfortunate opportunity, as many have with accelerating their online shopping platforms. It is time to do the same with administering the vaccine and demonstrate to their shoppers that they truly are the pillars of the community – and truly care about the future of the families that give them their business every week.
It’s time to listen to the insights that their retail dietitians can offer first on how to make the vaccine opportunity holistic, second on understanding the effects of COVID-19 on the megatrends and how to leverage them, and lastly to empower the retail dietitian to continue to build their relationships across the value chain and to gather as much information from your suppliers about what they are doing and what solutions they may be able to offer.
It’s time to lead and to listen; and the retail dietitian plays an important role in both.