Supermarkets Hiring Dietitans to Help Shoppers at the Point of Purchase

Grocery Aisle

If you’re going grocery shopping today, there’s a chance you’ll encounter a new member of the supermarket team as you wander the aisles. An increasing number of supermarket chains are now employing registered dietitians (RDs) at the store level, in order to help their shoppers make healthier foods choices.

This relatively recent trend has been reported here and here, and seems to be growing. Hy-Vee, Ingles, and other retailers have almost one dietitian per store, whereas other chains have on RD per several locations.

At first glance, placing a dietitian in a store must seem counter-intuitive, because if people truly listened to advice of a nutrition expert, they would stay away from many of the profitable products that the supermarket sells – the dietitian would steer all shoppers from junk food to bananas and apples.

But on deeper thought, this move makes a lot of sense:

* Supermarkets, unlike brands, don’t mind if a shopper switched from product A to a healthier product B, because she’s still spending the money at the supermarket.

* Competition among supermarkets is brutal. The average profit margin is very slim. Employing a dietitian can be a differentiator.

* The profit margin on produce is actually much higher than on brand items like Coca Cola or Doritos. If you think about the economic value chain, tomatoes are not branded, so the supermarket can buy from many suppliers, thus it is able to negotiate a good price, and mark up substantially for the consumer. But supermarkets can’t negotiate a good price on Coke because there is only on supplier. The grocer would never dare NOT sell Coke products because there is a huge consumer demand for them. So in this case, the profu margin is very high for the brand (Coke) but very low for the supermarket. In some cases, the grocer may use products like this as “loss leaders”, losing a few pennies on each, but recouping them through sales of other products the shopper will purchase while at the store.

Have you engaged an on-duty dietitian at your favorite supermarket?

  • Jen

    My local grocery store has been promoting their registered dietician recently. The RD offers some basic free courses and various other services for a fee. Some of the basics are topics like an introduction to the basics of diabetes, while more advanced courses such as meal planning and recipes for diabetes will have a fee. Other services that are available for a fee are: healthy shopping where the RD walks the aisles with you and shows you items to substitute for better nutrition or to replace junk foods. I would be interested in learning how many people have actually been willing to pay for such offerings since the information is so widely available online and in literature.

    • Fooducate

      The availability in store with a real human is much more powerful than an online reference.

  • melissa

    As a future RD I think that placing dietitians in the grocery store is a step in the right direction in fighting the obesity epidemic and chronic disease in the US. Getting information in front of consumers at that pertinent moment when they are making food choices and helping educating them to make better selections is extremely important. While there is nutrition information widely available on the Internet, not all of it is valid and it can be difficult to distinguish fact from fiction.

    Having an expert available to help answer questions and provide tips and alternative options is an invaluable opportunity for the consumer and they should take advantage of this service. Not all of the services offered at the grocery store are an extra fee. The RD’s at ShopRite for instance are available for cooking demos, answer questions through email, send out newsletters and post tips on the website. Having RD’s in grocery stores is the wave of the future and more grocery stores will be employing dietitians in the years to come. Grocery store dietitians are an asset
    not only the grocery store but to the health of our nation.

  • Dee

    It’s kinda hard to focus on the story when I keep finding spelling errors. Last paragraph.

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