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The Association of Retail and Consumer Professionals

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Last week’s announcement that Ahold Delhaize USA is selling Fresh Direct to Turkey’s Getir seems to be antithetical to the online grocery shopping trend. Getir, who entered the ultrafast delivery business in New York City (with dismal results) seems to be looking to the acquisition of Fresh Direct to gain a strong hold in the more conventional grocery express and next-day delivery business. JJ Freeman, the Ahold Delhaize USA CEO, said in a segment that it is focusing on its “biggest growth opportunity” — which he stated was omnichannel (as an aside, the last time I checked, grocery delivery was part of omnichannel). The reality is that over the past couple of years, Fresh Direct scaled back and eliminated its services in both Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia, so the sale is not a complete surprise. The grocery delivery market is evolving with competitors like Instacart and Shipt reimagining their businesses, and in some markets, losing market share, while at the same time, DoorDash and Uber Eats target grocery delivery as their next frontier. The difference is that DoorDash and Uber Eats are not encumbered with the task of picking the groceries in-store — they are focused on what both companies do well: delivery. 

This shift presents a unique opportunity for retail dietitians, nutritionists and other health professionals to influence healthy eating habits and nutritional awareness. Let’s think about the shoppers who choose delivery. These shoppers probably fall into one or more of the following segments: time constrained (e.g. young working moms and working couples), older shoppers with mobility issues or who may be house bound (e.g. health conditions) or high-income earners who just don’t want to be bothered with grocery shopping (e.g. more upscale, exotic higher margin gourmet foods and beverages) — to name just a few. Each of these shopper segments offer grocery retailers a unique market that if they are satisfied with the grocer’s selection and service, may offer a valuable lifetime relationship. This is where retail dietitians have an opportunity to offer these consumers the personalized information, recipes that mirror their desires and needs to reinforce value, help secure the relationship and ensure the grocery delivery platform is user-friendly and accessible, including for those with disabilities. 

Building on the success of using social media and videos that built during the pandemic, retail dietitians can offer personalized nutrition consultations through video or chat platforms, helping shoppers make informed choices and offer these shopper segments how best to use their online platforms to customize their offerings. Grocery retailers have not done enough to teach and empower shoppers to use their digital platforms to understand all the features available. The retail dietitian has a unique and powerful influence to add credibility to the line shopping experience. Based on these “consultations,” dietitians can create customized shopping lists that align with individual health goals, which can be directly linked to the grocery delivery platform. RD-created tools like meal planners and nutritional calculators can be embedded in the delivery platform, enabling shoppers to better understand the nutritional value of their purchases. Dietitians can collaborate with the grocery digital platform for pickup and delivery to highlight healthier options, making them more visible and accessible. 

A major complaint heard from both retail dietitians and their IT counterparts is that ensuring the accuracy of products’ nutritional info, ingredients and health claims is difficult. Retailers who embrace the dietitian’s involvement to work with suppliers to ensure accurate and detailed nutritional information can help shoppers make better-informed decisions, especially in the online shopping experience where, unlike in the in-store shopping experience, there is little opportunity for in-person Q&A. Retail dietitians need an online tool to be regularly soliciting feedback on the online services offered and making adjustments based on shopper needs can enhance the effectiveness of these initiatives — and communicating those through the retailer infrastructure. 

The integration of retail dietitians into the grocery delivery service model offers a novel avenue to impact public health positively. By providing personalized guidance, educational resources and tailored shopping experiences, dietitians can play a pivotal role in shaping healthier eating habits. As this sector continues to evolve and grow, the potential for dietitians to innovate and influence this platform will expand, marking an exciting frontier in the field of nutrition and health.

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