Dietitians Pay Off for Supermarkets
Lois E. Florence recently left her doctor’s office with a diagnosis of colitis, an intestinal disorder, and a complicated set of instructions for changing her diet.
After several setbacks she had a chance conversation with the pharmacist at her local Hy-Vee grocery store here that changed everything.
He referred her to the store’s dietitian, Dawn Blocklinger, and on a recent sunny morning, the two of them spent almost an hour compiling a list of the foods Mrs. Florence, 79, could eat and alternatives for the ones she couldn’t, like rye bread to replace wheat and Tofutti instead of ice cream.
Then they went shopping.
Hy-Vee is the only grocery chain in the country that posts a registered dietitian in almost every one of its 235 stores. In rural areas, some of its more than 190 dietitians serve a cluster of stores.
That puts it at the forefront of a phenomenon sweeping the grocery business as it tries both to capitalize on growing consumer awareness of the role food plays in health and wellness and to find new ways to fend off competition from specialty markets like Whole Foods and big-box stores like Walmart.
“There’s been an explosion of interest in having a dietitian among grocery store retailers in the last three or four years,” said Annette Maggi, chairwoman of the supermarket subgroup of the food and culinary professionals practice group at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a consultant to the retail and food manufacturing industries.