Oldways 6th annual Supermarket Dietitian Symposium, March 20 to 22, lived up to all of its expectations in a city known for its food — New Orleans. Fortunately, Mother Nature cooperated and just over 100 attendees flew in from across the country and Canada without navigating snowstorms, flooding, or other weather interference.

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Made possible through the generous support of our sponsor partners who recognize the value RDNs add to the retail landscape, the event, hosted at the Ritz-Carlton, offered two full days of opportunities for supermarket dietitians and sponsor representatives to share ideas and perspectives. The kick-off networking reception, held in the charming outdoor courtyard (pictured in the above group photo) created a buzz as returning attendees reconnected with their friends and colleagues from years past and dietitians new to the retail world gained a first-hand appreciation of the important connections and community support available to them. (Note: I was a “newbie” when I came up with the idea for this event seven years ago; it is intended to create a non-competitive space for retail dietitians to learn from one another and to provide a forum to identify best practices to ensure the success of trailblazers in this emerging field of dietetics.)

Louisiana resident Esther Ellis, MS, RD, LDN, from Rouses Markets, sent us this comment:

“Thank you so much for inviting me to attend the conference! I had a wonderful time and learned so much that will help me moving forward. Recently I felt as though I hit a wall in knowing how to have a plan to progress as the first RD for Rouses. Thanks to the Symposium I have so many ideas and it feels great knowing that I’m not the only one with certain struggles. I look forward to next year!”

The latest annual Health and Wellness Survey from the Food Marketing Institute indicates that 95 percent of food retailers employ a registered dietitian at the corporate, regional, or in-store level. This is a 10 percent increase over last year, which indicates the importance of infusing food and nutrition experts into the place where most consumers shop for food nearly twice per week.

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Veteran supermarket dietitians from retailers like Hy-Vee, Wakefern (ShopRite), Delhaize (Hannaford Bros.), Giant Eagle, H-E-B, and Kroger led discussion groups to showcase programs they have successfully implemented. These programs offer valuable nutrition education services to engage shoppers and provide a new source of revenue and competitive edge. Julie McMillin, RD, LD, the Director of Health and Wellness at Hy-Vee, speaking on behalf of Unilever, shared information on the shift in consumer needs, wants, and purchasing behavior. The Kroger Company’s team of dietitians, led by Eileen Myers, MPH, RD, LDN, FAND, shared updates on The Little Clinic, which has plans to expand nutrition services throughout the company, including King Soopers, one of their divisions located in Colorado. Ellie Wilson, MS, RD, CDN from Price Chopper (NY) shared ideas on how their Family Meals Matter campaign has provided a meaningful platform to connect with consumers. Rita Zapien, MS, RD, LD, CED, an H-E-B regional dietitian located in Houston, TX, shared exciting news about the success of her retailer’s annual “SlimDown Showdown” competition which inspires the community on topics of good nutrition and exercise.

Hadley Johnson, healthy living marketing specialist and manager of Hannaford’s award-winning retail dietitian program, sent us this comment:

“I cannot imagine how much planning and coordination went into building this incredible, vibrant, and holistic symposium, but I feel honored that you included me in the fun. It was a great opportunity to learn what others are doing in the industry as well as share our own personal success stories.”


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In addition to a program chock-full of retail insights, trends, and valuable information to help supermarket dietitians successfully educate consumers and raising the bar for retail-based health programs, there was no shortage of great food and fun activities. Providing meals that support the Oldways mission — to highlight the unique cultural, and healthy, background of regional food — is an integral part of the program’s success. Although food from the South may conjure thoughts of fried chicken, there is also a rich history of traditional foods that in fact have roots in good health and nutrition. The group enjoyed off-site dinners at two restaurants run by award-winning chefs: John Besh’s Restaurant August and Donald Link’s private dining room, Calcasieu.  There was plenty of local shrimp on the menu, as well as black-eyed peas, okra, collard greens, fried green tomatoes, Cajun and creole flavors, and of course, beignets for dessert.

The program concluded with fun and fitness, as attendees spent the afternoon exploring the French Quarter on foot, competing in an iPhone scavenger hunt that brought them face-to-face with the rich history, traditions, and culture of the city.  As in years past, attendees left inspired with new ideas and friends as well as many great memories.

Please visit the Symposium page for more information on the event, and to see powerpoint presentations and photos from the event (coming soon).

Barbara Ruhs, MS, RD, LDN

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