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?