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Want your next cardio workout or Zumba class served with a side of organic hummus or a fresh garden salad? If so, you might want to visit the Healthy Living Center, located inside the Hannaford Supermarket & Pharmacy within Albany, New York’s Century II Mall.


Inside this innovative and welcoming facility you will discover classes, programs, and workshops led by certified instructors, registered dietitians, and pharmacists from the YMCA, Capital District Physicians' Health Plan (CDPHP) and Hannaford. Visitors can put in 30 minutes of circuit training, then head to the deli counter for a quick, healthy snack. Those with more time can learn how to build a better picnic or a well-balanced salad, discuss their nutritional needs with an on-staff dietitian, enroll in nutrition classes, or participate in an interactive online chat with one of Hannaford’s dietitians.



Dietitians Deliver Competitive Edge
By Brenda G. Russell


“We approached the Y with the idea of using some surplus space in our supermarket building for a community-based wellness center,” says Eric Blom, spokesperson for the Hannaford Supermarkets chain, headquartered in Scarborough, Maine. “Customers value our commitment to helping them make healthy choices and to giving them the tools they need to identify nutritious options. We see increased customer loyalty as a result.”


This supermarket-based center is just one example of how food retailers are tapping dietitians and other health-related services to build shopper loyalty, drive sales, and differentiate themselves from competitors.

Creating healthy, nutritionally sound inventory is another task deli operators must tackle. For example, says Polley, “How do you use sliced deli meats?” Mixing them into a salad with different types of beans to incorporate more nutritional components is one suggestion, she adds.


Labeling for health-conscious customers

Shoppers are paying more attention to unhealthy ingredients vs. healthy ones. For customers that are shopping with healthy eating or a disease state in mind, many supermarkets are adapting their labeling to those concerns.


Percentage of stores that label healthy products*

More than three-quarters of shoppers say that maintaining or improving heart health is somewhat or very important to them. 43% of retailers identify heart healthy products on the shelf.

*According to the 2012 FMI Health And Wellness Survey

Cathy Polley, vice president of health and wellness for the Food Marketing Institute [FMI], reports that almost 90 percent of FMI member stores have at least one dietitian on staff. Approximately 35 percent of members have a dietitian in-store.


That trend is spiking nationwide. As “Supermarket Guru” Phil Lempert, a Santa Monica, Calif.-based consultant who also serves as chief executive of Retail Dietitians Business Alliance, told The Des Moines Register in June, there are approximately 700 in-store dietitians nationally, with another 1,300 to be added in the next 11 years.


Notably, it isn’t just health-conscious customers flocking to these in-store specialists. Dietitians also appeal to busy shoppers who face more choices than ever in the deli and throughout the store.


“Shoppers are looking for the retailer and the dietitian in that store to help them simplify all those nutritional messages,” says Polley, “They're turning to the supermarket to get through that clutter and understand it in simple terms. We see dietitians working with all departments in the store—in the deli, prepared foods, and foodservice [areas]—nothing is off limits.”

In-Store Dietitians - Trends



“Shoppers are looking for the retailer and the dietitian... to help them simplify all those nutritional messages... They're turning to the supermarket to get through that clutter and understand it in simple terms.”



—Cathy Polley, vice president of health and wellness for the Food Marketing Institute



Healthy Messages, Healthy Menus



To attract customers seeking a serving of health along with their groceries, retailers should explore ways their stores, and the professionals within them, can help shoppers meet their nutritional goals. “But how do you appropriately use the deli system?” Polly asks.


Lempert offers some suggestions.


“In the deli, registered dietitians can create vendor-supported promotions that highlight foods that have a ‘better for you’ nutritional profile,” Lempert says. “Dietitians also can gear cooking demonstrations to address general health concerns or specific needs to control diabetes, obesity or heart disease.”


Many FMI member stores are taking that approach, Polley says. Some offer dietitian-led store tours tied to topics such as nutritional labeling, weight management and food allergy awareness. Other seminars or tours focus on topics of special interest to parents of young children, such as how to pack a healthy preschool snack or a healthy lunch.


“They're setting up grocers as community destinations for health and wellness,” she adds. “It's a great model. There is no better place to be a dietitian these days than in a supermarket!”


Creating healthy, nutritionally sound inventory is another task deli operators must tackle. For example, says Polley, “How do you use sliced deli meats?”


Mixing them into a salad with different types of beans to incorporate more nutritional components is one suggestion, she adds.



With more than 43,000 items in each store alone, many supermarkets are offering dietitian-led store tours to assist people in their purchases according to their health concerns.



Hy-Vee stores—a family-owned supermarket chain of 235 stores headquartered in West Des Moines, Iowa—highlight low-fat and low-sodium deli items as featured items of “Deals of the Day.” The company also relies on customer requests as the starting point for healthy deli recommendations, says Stacey Loftus, RD, LD, Hy-Vee’s health and wellness supervisor


“I think you’re moving into the millennial generation which thinks mayo[nnaise] is old fashioned,” Loftus says. “I’m seeing a demand for non-mayo salads. The younger generation has a more culinary tie with food. Mayo items behind the counter don’t give this impression of fresh ingredients.”

Stores eager to promote a healthy profile are finding willing partners in healthcare providers. Increasingly, medical practices are being paid based on patient outcomes, and thus have incentives to encourage good nutrition in partnership with grocery and pharmacy chains.


Recently, Hy-Vee implemented the Hy-Vee Electronic Health Record, which uses software called PHRQL (short for Personal Health Recording for Quality of Life) to help customers manage data from weight management and nutrition counseling, medical testing, and insurance billing connected to visits with a Hy-Vee store dietitian.


"There are definitely more people engaging in managing their health. And Hy-Vee wants to play more of a part in their health care,” Julie McMillin, Hy-Vee's director of health and wellness, said in the June story in The Des Moines Register. "We knew we needed the technology, considering the changes in health care. This was something we need to support our dietitians."



More than a Food Focus

“All of our departments, including deli, are active participants in efforts to help customers learn about healthy options,” Blom says. “For example, we use signage throughout the store that makes suggestions on how foods can easily be combined to make healthy, affordable snacks and entrees. We call this Guiding Stars Good Ideas.”


The signage is an extension of the Guiding Stars program (, a nutrition guidance initiative Hannaford developed in 2006 with the help of a scientific advisory panel. The program rates food on a good, better, best system, with one star representing good nutritional value, two stars better, and three stars the best nutritional value per 100 calories. Other retailers including Food Lion and Marsh are now partners in the program.


“It's good guidance for shoppers going up and down the aisle of the store trying to figure out what to put in the basket,” Polley says.


Whether they showcase nutritional information, employ in-store dietitians, invest in electronic health records software, or forge full-speed ahead with in-store health centers, food retailers willing to invest in nutrition-focused initiatives will enjoy a competitive advantage, experts says.


“Today supermarkets have finally discovered that shoppers want more than just low prices,” Lempert says. “After all, if they shop around enough, they will always find a lower price.


“Supermarkets who reach out to build a relationship with their shoppers build loyalty and their business,” he continues, “and there’s nothing stronger than helping a person eat better and be healthier. It's the gift of a longer life!”

Safeway is another food retailer “doing some wonderful things with diabetes management that involve dietitians and pharmacists working together,” Polley says. “They have smoking cessation programs—there’s a nutrition component, because as you try to quit smoking, sometimes you want to munch a little more. So it's helping that person looking to quit balance that quitting against the nutrition they need to take in as well.”


In-store signage, too, can help convey a store’s commitment to health and wellness.

Editor’s Note:

Presented below is just one excellent example of the many ways that in-store deli operators are using on-staff dietitians to encourage healthy lifestyles, engage community members and grow deli revenues.
Reproduced from the Hy-Vee web site, with permission, this information is available to customers at
Hy-Vee, Inc., based in West Des Moines, Iowa, is a 235-store supermarket chain concentrated in 8 midwestern states.



Health and nutrition information from a Hy-Vee dietitian - to help with your personal health and wellness needs and goals.


  • Weekly health and nutrition topics – including dietitian tips and recipes.

  • Weekly menus with easy recipes and shopping list, using Hy-Vee ad specials. Menus for diabetes, heart health and weight management also available.

  • Monthly newsletter – includes the dietitian pick of the month, dietitian recipe of the month and new good-for-you foods.


Health Screenings

Don’t wait for chronic diseases to sneak up on you. Take preventative measures by getting a health assessment by your Hy-Vee dietitian. Get quick and accurate results on cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, body fat and body mass index. Your Hy-Vee dietitian will explain what the results mean to you.


Shopping Tours


Learn how to read food labels and discover new food choices with a dietitian. Tours can focus on health concerns, such as diabetes, cholesterol, sports nutrition, weight management, food allergies, quick meal ideas, stretching your food dollars and much more.


Individual Medical Nutrition Therapy

(with physician referral - contact dietitian for details)

Visit your Hy-Vee dietitian when your physician recommends diet changes or for any special dietary needs. Your Hy-Vee dietitian will help you develop a nutrition plan tailored to your healthcare needs, such as weight loss/gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, food allergy/intolerance (such as gluten-free), high cholesterol and other nutritional concerns. Contact your Hy-Vee dietitian for help with choosing the program that is right for you.






Dietitian Services Available from Hy-Vee




Begin™ Healthy Lifestyle and Weight Loss Program

Begin is a ten-week lifestyle management program led by a Hy-Vee dietitian. This healthy lifestyle program emphasizes eating for good health, weight loss and being physically active. Health screens with biometrics and measurements are included with most Begin™ programs at start and finish. Begin™ is not a “diet”- Begin™ is a plan to help with lifelong wellness.


Community Presentations

A variety of health and wellness programs is available for business or organizations. Your group can come to the store or the Hy-Vee dietitian can come to you. Services may include employee health fairs, cooking demonstrations, luncheon presentations or health screenings.


Cooking Classes, Wellness Workshops, and

Kids’ Events

These events vary with each Hy-Vee dietitian. Some events are complimentary, while others have a fee. Contact your local Hy-Vee dietitian for more information on upcoming events.


Fees may apply; contact the dietitian for more details*




Located in Rock Island, IL, this Hy-Vee is just one of the supermarket chain’s many stores where shoppers and community members can take advantage of free and low-cost nutritional information and services.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided here is intended for general information only. It is not intended as medical advice. Health information changes frequently as research constantly evolves. You should not rely on any information gathered here as a substitute for consultation with medical professionals. Information may not be reproduced without permission from Hy-Vee, Inc.

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