2020 Grocery Trends: Dietitian Programs

Dietitian programs are becoming common in grocery stores, and, to be honest, we wish we would’ve been the ones to come up with the idea first.

Dietitian programs solve a major consumer objection to purchasing. Think of it this way:

  • Have you ever been walking down a grocery store aisle, wondering what foods are actually healthy? 
  • Wondering whether you should go for the low sodium or low calorie option?
  • Thinking about whether organic matters for your specific diet, or if going gluten-free would be beneficial?

Food products live on both sides of the necessity spectrum: on the one hand, customers need to purchase food to survive, but on the other it can be difficult to determine what foods they need to eat, and which are simply splurges.

Grocery stores have caught on to this dilemma, and have hired dietitians to their staff to solve this major problem for their customers – right there in the store.


When did dietitian programs in grocery stores start? How did they become popular?

Dietitians have actually worked in supermarkets since the 1980s, where they acted as consultants to consumers on general health and wellness. Today’s consumers need even more in order to make educated purchases in a grocery store.

There are a number of factors that come into play when you consider why adding a dietitian program to your grocery business would be helpful to customers. 

First, a larger awareness of various health conditions and the ways in which food can impact overall vitality. Celiac disease was the impetus for the gluten-free movement, while organic foods were popularized in grocery stores in response to research that showed pesticides had a negative effect on health. Heart disease and arthritis are augmented by unhealthy eating habits and obesity. Even symptoms from life-threatening illnesses like some cancers can be reduced through a healthy diet. Having a dietitian at your disposal as you do your weekly shop would provide an expert level of advice, and ensure that you’re eating in a way that optimizes your health.

Second, an aging population is largely affected by the illnesses and diseases mentioned above. As baby boomers continue to grow older, they need more assistance in order to stay healthy and live a fulfilling life. Now that they’ve retired, they’re more focused on grocery shopping with a healthy lifestyle in mind. Dietitians can walk through the store with them, consulting them on what to purchase for their specific nutritional needs.

Finally, wellness is a thriving industry. Companies like goop have carved out a space in the market for those who want to eat as cleanly as possible and the hashtag #healthyfood has been used over 69 million times on Instagram. The research backs up the idea of grocery stores as wellness meccas. 55% of consumers see their grocery store as an ally in their wellness efforts – as much as health clubs, according to FMI’s 2018 US Grocery Shopper Trends Report. Grocery stores who jump on the trend and embrace their place as wellness and health experts will prosper in 2020.


What exactly do grocery store dietitians do?

Grocery store dietitian programs exist first and foremost to help customers lead healthier lives, understand their personal health and nutrition needs, and offer advice on what foods to purchase in order to meet their health goals.

Services can include creating customized meals and meal kits, offering cooking demos, teaching nutrition classes, and hosting community events in order to promote nutrition, health, and wellness within your grocery store’s neighborhood.


Which grocery stores are running a successful dietitian program?

There are a few grocery companies who are leading the way in dietitian programs, creating a benchmark for all of those who will attempt to incorporate this trend into their business trends for 2020.

Hy-Vee sets the industry standard with their use of in-store dietitians. The company has hired dietitians to work in over 85 of their locations across the United States, bringing much needed health and nutrition education to communities throughout the nation. Hy-Vee has released statements that talk about their focus on combating “nutrition-influenced medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and high cholesterol”. Their prioritization of their customers’ needs shows that they understand how integral grocery stores are to their communities, and how they can play a major role in maintaining the health of their customers by bringing the experts into their stores.

Raley’s is another great example of a grocery store that is making in-store dietitian programs work for them and their customers. The company recently created a nutrition strategist position in their org chart to “help support the company’s wellness initiatives”. Yvette Waters is Raley’s corporate dietitian, and the main goal of her role is to “develop customer education pieces and curate the stores’ product”. Raley’s shows that dietitian programs don’t have to stop at customer support; they can also branch into consulting for other aspects of the business like strategy and purchasing.


What are the pros and cons of having a dietitian program in your grocery store?

So far, we’ve talked through why dietitian programs have become popular for grocers, what dietitians do in a grocery store, and why hiring a dietitian for your company might be a good idea. Let’s break down the pros and the cons a little more thoroughly.

Dietitian programs, as we mentioned before, add significant value for your customers. In a time when it is imperative for grocery stores to capitalize on any opportunity to create a unique, relevant experience for their customers in order to survive the treacherous retail landscape, adding a dietitian program could be a quick way to offer your customers something of value in exchange for their loyalty. Dietitian programs let customers access dietary advice and consulting right in the place where they are doing their shopping for the week. Convenient, helpful, and personal – the three key aspects to a promising retail initiative. 

Another benefit of adding a dietitian program to your store initiatives is the “in the door” factor. Many customers are turning to click and collect and grocery delivery in this digital age, but offering in-store dietitian services could be a great way to get customers back through the doors of your brick and mortar location. With more customers than ever saying that a great experience is the key to their loyalty, creating another opportunity for your shoppers to have that experience in your store with your dietitian program is a win-win.

To become a grocery industry leader, you need to have a community-focused reputation. We believe in this point so much that we wrote an entire ebook about it. Adding a dietitian program to your business plan not only positions you and your store as community wellness advocates, it can actually have real, tangible, beneficial effects on your community. When your community is healthier, they live longer and are happier. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that impact?

Finally, to tie this argument up in a business-centered bow, having a dietitian program in your grocery stores can have a positive effect on your bottom line. Products that are recommended by dietitians could see a spike in sales, so those healthy options that you’ve been struggling to sell on merit alone could benefit from an expert endorsement.

You’re probably wondering: dietitian programs sound like they can only bring good things to my business, but there have to be some downsides. You would be right, but, fortunately, the cons to this 2020 grocery trend aren’t completely off putting.

The first downside to adding a dietitian program to your stores is obvious: added cost. Not only will you need to add additional employees to your payroll, you’ll also likely have to pay to market the program so that your shoppers know they have access to it. Creating collateral, marketing messages, and purchasing advertising adds up.

Speaking of customer education, the other downside to a dietitian program is that they aren’t widely used in grocery stores yet. Though becoming more popular, it’s likely that your customers have not used a dietitian program in a grocery store previously, and it could take considerable convincing and education before they’ll be prompted to take advantage of your services.

Creating a dietitian program for your grocery store is a great way to add value to your shoppers, and to set yourself apart in the marketplace. It doesn’t require exorbitant technology investments, or a huge staff learning curve, but it may necessitate a bit of customer education and internal support. If your interest is piqued, we recommend conducting a trial run in a few select locations before implementing company wide. You’ll be able to collect store and customer data, and determine what you need to do in order to make your dietitian program successful.

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