Retail Dietitians Provide Front-Line Support To Help Increase Produce Consumption


The key to partnering with retail Registered Dietitians (RDs) on promotions is to understand the focus of their programs, says Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, MS, RDN, president and chief executive officer of the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), based in Brentwood, MO.

“While some retail health and well-being programs prioritize individual consults with consumers, others drive promotions through social and digital. Understanding the program approach of key retail partners is essential to providing meaningful resources to them,” she explains.

“Generally, retail RDs seek program support and partnerships that drive omnichannel shopper engagement. For example, the RD conducting individual consults seeks the latest research on how specific products fit into heart-healthy eating habits, coupons and new recipes for their shoppers, and one-pagers to send in follow-up to a consult.”

The three top requested resources for fruit and vegetable promotion by retail RDs, according to PBH’s Have A Plant Retail Ambassador Survey Results–December 2020, are seasonal/topical resource kits (requested by 73% of those surveyed), produce training for RDs (71%), and infographics (61%).

“I love seasonal toolkits,” says Meredith McGrath, RD, LDN, nutrition marketing and communications specialist at Redner’s Markets, Inc. a Reading, PA-based chain that operates 44 grocery stores and 21 Quick Shoppes in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. “This is a wonderful way for already-busy retail RDs to have a go-to, plug-and-play approach to marketing content.”

However, McGrath adds, “to make an impact, marketing funds and a customized approach will typically create the biggest bang for your buck. Retail RDs know their guests and know what works. It is not always a one-size-fits-all with promotions.”

Research updates (59%), fruit/vegetable webinars (56%), video/livestream content (54%), and partnerships with suppliers (51%) were also valued by over half of retail RDs surveyed by PBH.

“Before the pandemic, we hosted in-person and virtual events and activities that immerse retail RDs in our company and the link between fresh produce and a happier, healthier life. These included numerous Dole Salad Summits featuring walking tours of Dole’s growing fields in central California, and a dedicated Dole Banana Summit celebrating America’s most popular fruit. We’re looking forward to resuming these activities in the future,” says Bil Goldfield, director, corporate communications for the Dole Food Company, headquartered in Charlotte, NC.

Dole also supports retail-level RDs and health professionals with a variety of educational materials, such as its Dole Health and Wellness brochure series, the Dole Nutrition Handbook, and custom recipes for every occasion. These materials are used during hands-on nutrition classes, consultations, in-store demos, blogger giveaways and hosted promos, new product showcases, and TV appearances to communicate the health and nutrition benefits of produce consumption and a plant-based diet. These efforts are headed up by Melanie Marcus, MA, RD, the company’s nutrition and health communications manager who personally, and peer-to-peer, heads up Dole’s partnerships with retail RDs.

Marketing funds, while not mentioned directly by retail RDs in the PBH survey, are the gas that fuels promotions.
“For in-store engagement, our dietitians express a lot of appreciation for coupons from our partners. They serve as a great conversation starter and allow customers an opportunity to try items at a lower price — and hopefully come back for more once they’ve had a taste,” says Laura Hunt, senior healthy living marketing specialist for Hannaford Supermarkets, a 184-store chain headquartered in Scarborough, ME.

Marketing funds are often pretty tight when it comes to the fresh side of the business, says Redner’s Markets McGrath, “but, more and more, those purse strings are starting to loosen up due to the power of nutrition marketing and the influence of retail RDs. I see these relationships continue to strengthen and be a game-changer, particularly with innovative items.”


“Retail RDs integrate produce promotions into all their programs and services, from one-on-one consults for heart health and diabetes to live video streams and in-store endcaps. They partner with vendors on couponing, educational materials and how-to videos, recipe bunkers, social media takeovers, and end-cap displays,” says Reinhardt Kapsak at PBH. There are several excellent examples:

• One from 2021 is a partnership between PBH (as part of its Powerful Produce Pairings program), two PBH member companies, Naturipe Farms and the Egg Nutrition Center, and retail dietitian Ashley Martinez, MFN, RD, LD of the Cincinnati, OH-headquartered Kroger Co, which operates 2,800-plus stores in 35 states. The promotion included shopper education by Kroger’s RD team through its Little Clinics; a Have A Plant Cook Along on PBH’s Facebook channel, Instagram reels, and a booklet that was distributed to over 60,000 Kroger shoppers by mail.

“The promotion celebrated the back-to-school season in August and provided parents with easy, nutrient-packed recipes,” explains Naturipe’s Arias. The recipes, including blueberry, avocado and banana muffins, were demoed on Facebook Live and reached nearly 40,000 individuals. The overall social media promotions reached over 316,000 followers and the cook-along performed 2.7 times higher than other PBH Facebook posts.

• At H-E-B, a 420-store chain headquartered in San Antonio, TX, the RD teams work to promote the retailer’s health and well-being services to Texas clinics, insurers and doctors. They also partnered with vendors, including produce companies like USA Pears, to create and deliver bundled boxes of healthy products with coupons and resources.

• Produce vendors and dietitians at Hy-­Vee, Inc., a 280-plus store chain based in West Des Moines, IA, partnered on various cooking classes, such as make-ahead freezer meals or breakfast for dinner ideas.

As part of PBH’s Powerful Produce Pairing program, Naturipe and the Egg Nutrition Center teamed up with Kroger’s Ashley Martinez to reach more than 300,000 followers on social media.

• Sunkist Growers worked recently with April Sins, MS, RDN, LDN, the corporate retail dietitian at Rouses Markets, a 60-plus store chain headquartered in Thibodaux, LA, on a Produce for Kids promotion. The promotion featured lemons, since they are available year-round and an excellent source of vitamin C. Sins created a fun recipe for the retailer’s Halloween snack board, which was also featured on Rouses’ social platforms and local television.

• Last year, Dole collaborated in Giant’s ‘Handpicked by Our Nutritionists’ program. This enabled the produce supplier to collaborate with the retailer’s 10 RDs, who cover the Landover, MD-based chain’s 167 store locations, to promote packaged salads and healthy eating. Under this program, Dole-brand salads were featured throughout Giant’s nutritional communications platform, including its Nutrition Made Easy! podcast commercials and ‘Ask the Expert’ column in Savory Magazine, a dedicated social media campaign on Giant social pages, in-store radio and POP, local TV segments, summer and senior-specific direct mail, and online classes and events.

A highlight of the “Handpicked by Our Nutritionists” partnership was Dole Salads being positioned in Giant’s “What’s in Your Cart?” in-store radio and social media initiative to achieve the MyPlate goal of one-half the plate in produce. Dole was also featured in 110 in-person and online classes attended by more than 8,300 Giant shoppers.

• In a recent partnership promotion at SpartanNash, Deanna Scheid, RD, included vendor content in the retailer’s monthly Living Well magazine, executed an in-store recipe display including the sponsor’s product, live-streamed recipe demos, and promoted the vendor product on social media.

• In a follow-up to a cook-along best-­practices training hosted by PBH and led by The Mushroom Council, based in Lee’s Summit, MO, dietitians at Springfield, MA-headquartered Big Y, with 71 stores, hosted a virtual cook-along using produce-focused recipes for Cinco de Mayo, adding the recipes to their website as well.