Shopping With Dietitians
The Next Big Marketing Weapon for Supermarkets – The Dietitian
Do you think all of the marketing power for supermarket and grocery chains sits in corporate office cubicles far away from the physical stores? Think again.
Hundreds of dietitians and nutrition experts are emerging as a major marketing force at supermarket titans such as Wegmans and Giant Eagle. Once confined to hospitals and offices, dietitians have become a marketing weapon within supermarket chains to aid shoppers seeking the best foods to drop weight, battle diseases or avoid allergic reactions.
Many of the services offered by in-store dietitians are free, such as basic store tours, menu suggestions and shopping lists, while some dietitians offer personal consultations for a fixed fee. More importantly, some chains use their dietitians to train store employees on topics such as why organic foods cost more and what benefits they do and do not provide. “These are things that our customers ask our employees and we want our employees to have ways of answering these questions,” said Jane Andrews, a dietitian at Wegman’s.
As the nation’s healthcare system continues to put a premium on preventive care, the trend to staff in-house dietitians is another sign that consumers are demanding more from their food providers. Over one-third of stores have a registered dietitian at the retail level, and many food-industry analysts believe that number will at least double within two years.
While their objective is to assist shoppers, dietitians are evolving into major brand assets for stores, with many appearing on local radio and TV shows. The publicity garnered is a boost for supermarket chains, especially as they look to remain relevant while facing increased competition from drugstores such as Walgreens and CVS, which have increased their food offerings.
With this growing trend, dietitians are in a unique position of power. Food brands are beginning to see them as targets for powerful endorsement deals because, “they are in the store and they are right there with the consumers when they are making their purchasing decisions,” said Nancy Tringali Piho, a longtime food-industry PR professional. Whether dietitians capitalize on this position of power is something to be seen as the trend of in-store dietitians continues to grow.
As more people deal with ongoing health issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol, celiac disease and other issues, Andrews says that more people are recognizing that food has a function beyond enjoyment. “Once you figure that out,” she added, “you start expecting more of your supermarket. And once you find a supermarket or food store that helps serve you in that way, you are going to go back there.”
Do you feel all supermarket and grocery chains should make the decision to bring on in-store dietitians? Let us know your thoughts.