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Please describe your role at Giant Food.

As the Healthy Living Merchandising Manager for Giant Food, I serve as the liaison between Healthy Living and Merchandising working to integrate the message of health into our customer’s omnichannel shopping experience. I collaborate with CPGs and Category Managers to drive healthy display programs, including setting TPRs, building POGs, and reporting results. I partner with shopper marketing to promote better-for-you products through our Handpicked by the Healthy Living Team program, featuring Guiding Stars* rated products across print, digital, and in-store tactics. I also work cross-functionally with merchandising, marketing, strategy, and operations to educate customers and associates on Guiding Stars, promote affordable better-for-you solutions across omnichannel tactics, and drive innovative programming through the lens of health. Finally, I serve as the brand’s SME on Guiding Stars and work alongside leadership and Private Brands to drive healthy sales for Giant Food. (*GS is the nutrition guidance program at Giant which is used to help customers easily identify better-for-you options)

What’s the story behind your experience in retail and how you came to work at your retailer?

Like most Registered Dietitians, I came to retail after working in the acute care, hospital setting. While I enjoyed the challenge that came with providing medical nutrition therapy and nutrition support, I found myself looking for opportunities to integrate health into a community member’s everyday experience. Enter retail dietetics! As an in-store dietitian at Giant Food, I loved interacting with the community in an environment in which customers are comfortable and familiar and one in which they are making decisions that directly impact the health of their families. My current role as Healthy Living Merchandising Manager takes this one step further by influencing the assortment, pricing, and prominence of healthy foods throughout the shopping experience.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a dietitian working in the retail industry? 

Grocery is a complex, dynamic business – and not one we are exposed to in our dietetics programs. As a retail dietitian shifting focus to merchandising, I was stepping into completely uncharted waters and trying not to drown in org charts, POGs, CPGs, TPRs, JBPs, and understanding the new language I wasn’t fluent in. Learning grocery merchandising basics while simultaneously trailblazing new paths for health within the business was an interesting dichotomy to navigate – especially as leadership was turning their heads to me to explain healthy sales reports and provide problem solutions. I learned quickly how to become comfortable with the unknown and to trust my SME perspective even while filling in my knowledge gaps. My advice is to learn by immersion: look for a mentor within the organization, introduce your role and your goals to everyone you can, and listen in to every meeting that you can score an invite to. Prioritize relationship building and ask many (many) questions. Lastly, trust your expertise. The retail dietitian brings a valuable perspective to the table – even if that table lies outside your comfort zone.

What is one thing you wish you had known before starting your career in retail? 

The opportunities to grow and develop in grocery are limitless! Grocery and dietitians are a perfect fit: both industries care about the importance of food in people’s lives. A retail dietitian can provide a unique perspective in all areas of the business, from e-comm and shopper marketing to merchandise planning and strategy formation. When I started as an in-store nutritionist – during COVID mind you – I had no idea that my job would take me to CPG meetings, building business plans for executive leadership, and talking TPRs with vendors and category managers. The best part is that this is only the beginning! You have to keep your sights focused and grab onto opportunities that come your way.

Has there been anything specific that helped you move forward in your role?

The Healthy Living Merchandising Manager position was established in early 2022 with a fairly broad description that I had to navigate.  As health is not typically a driver of traditional grocery models, I was unsure how a fully health-designated role focused on Merchandising would be received and if hesitancy around a new perspective and focus would limit the reach we could make. This was certainly not the case! By prioritizing relationship building both internally and externally and taking the time to show how a retail dietitian would be of value to merchandising, I was quickly embraced and provided the support I needed to learn, grow, and develop.  These relationships are imperative for building the trust needed for our brand to “take the leap” with prioritizing health in the merchandising space.  Of course, I am also grateful for the support of the entire Healthy Living team and mentorship of Lisa Coleman, Director of Healthy Living, who has helped to create the space for health-focused merchandising programs to be established and successful.  Relationship building no matter where you work is essential but especially in the retail setting – so be your own advocate, learn about all areas of the business, and build those relationships across the organization.

Is there a program or initiative that you are most proud of? 

My biggest and proudest accomplishment is the development of our Healthy Hutch in-store display and Smart Snacking endcap which put healthier choices front and center for the customer. Prominent non-perishable display space in stores is a precious commodity – hard to get and easy to lose. Building these programs involves balancing coordination with CMs, CPGs, data analytics, store operations, and supply chain, and, of course, breaking down antiquated ideas of what “healthy” means. I’m proud that we have been able to expand these programs across the Giant footprint and even prouder that they have proved a financial lift as well! Healthy food DOES sell, and the data is proving it sells just as well (even twice as well!) as old-standby staples. Through these programs as well as Handpicked shopper marketing, the Healthy Living team has brought in incremental revenue for the organization YOY. Although I am no expert (but I am certainly learning by leaps and bounds) – I was recognized as a 2022 GenNext award winner by Progressive Grocer because of the innovative role I play at my brand.  I’m grateful to see retail dietetics highlighted in our industry and excited for all that’s next – which includes working behind the scenes to bring that NP display success to the rest of the store!

Bio:

Emily Massi, RDN, LDN is the Healthy Living Merchandising Manager for Giant Food, an Ahold Delhaize retail brand with 165 stores throughout Maryland, Delaware, Washington DC, and Virginia. Emily received her B.S. in Nutrition and Food Science with a focus in Dietetics from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2016 and completed the Virginia Tech Internship Program in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2017. Emily works cross-departmentally with merchandising, marketing, operations, and strategy to drive healthy sales and promote better-for-you options to customers. Emily was named a 2022 GenNext award recipient by Progressive Grover, a 2023 Top 10 RD’s Making a Difference winner by Today’s Dietitian, and a 2023 Woman of Influence in the Food Industry by The Shelby Report.

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