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The Association of Retail and Consumer Professionals


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Mariely Rosado, Retail Dietitian and Specialty Buyer at Healthy Path Markets, offered to share insights into her evolving role as a retail dietitian in Puerto Rico.

Please describe your role at Healthy Path Markets. Have you added new responsibilities to your role since being named RDBA’s 2020 Retail RD of the Year? How has your role changed since the pandemic?
My role is to address client’s nutritional needs and to be an advocate in the retail industry. In my day to day, I work with our CEO to redefine the scope of existing programs, create new processes in marketing, select products, evaluate, and educate our employees and clients.

Since 2020, I’ve had the honor of educating on and purchasing specialty and innovative products to make them accessible to our customers. I obtained the Specialty Buyer Certification and was promoted to Specialty Buyer. Selected products are presented first to our clients from the in-store nutrition clinic. The selection is based on dietary challenges from our population, food trends, and innovative categories in the food industry.

Another new task has been the selection of our own CRDNs for nutrition interns to have a full Retail Dietitian experience concerning cultural competency since this is the first and only certified position in Puerto Rico (PR). This year we succeeded in creating a new position for an RD at our stores, which has been a great accomplishment for the expansion of this great profession in PR.

Since the pandemic, we have focused on virtual education. We have digitalized some of our successful in-store strategies, one of which is including nutrition information in the form of posts, educational videos, cooking demos, and live online events via social media. We have also immersed ourselves in the online shopping experience by adding logos to products that reflect adherence to the Dietary Guidelines in online shoppers and buying platforms. This way, consumers that are transitioning from in-store to online grocery shopping are enabled to see products with the logo and identify them as healthy options recommended by the dietitian. We have identified a growing search for immune support options, and that led to the development of the Wellness Path Program including items focused on functional foods.

How have you shifted and evolved in your role to remain relevant – to the community you serve as well as your leadership team?
I find internal and external alliances to be important in remaining relevant. In PR I have functioned as a speaker for nutrition professionals with local regulatory entities such as the Academy of Nutrition PR Chapter and “Colegio de Nutricionistas y Dietistas” in their annual meetings. Also, national organizations such as NGA and RDBA have provided me the opportunity to participate in their events and learn from other’s innovative strategies so I can extrapolate new skills and tactics to adapt to my culture. Continuing education and new certifications help me follow a constant evolution in my practice by engaging our new generations and customers with different mindsets toward health and nutrition.

Another critical strategy during these past years has been partnering with the marketing department for social media penetration and evaluation of past attempts so we can use multiple channels and the most successful approaches to deliver our message.

Finally, my role has evolved into a leadership position with a new RD on the team. Having a past intern, who I trained, as a new colleague has been a great accomplishment and a great learning experience.

What is the biggest challenge you are currently facing in your role as a dietitian working in the retail industry now? 
Being the only certified Retail Dietitian in Puerto Rico has been challenging. Adapting knowledge, practice, and establishing standards while considering cultural competency has been a rollercoaster. Food trends, generational behaviors, and even product selection do not work the same on the island as in other places. I work in three stores, and even the culture from one town to the next is different. The greatest challenge is to create approaches culturally adapted to each population. It is possible to do this, but the road to get there is filled with trial and error.

With my new position as Specialty Buyer, I have experienced challenges when bringing new products to our stores. I may order innovative products filled with nutritional ingredients and then receive the “out of stock” or “not available in your DC” notification. Also, maintaining good prices considering transportation costs is hard.

However, I consider the moment a challenge presents itself as an opportunity to expand your horizons as you search for solutions. The Healthy Path Market initiative has evolved in the search for answers, and I attribute all the credit to the challenges that push us to think differently and work together to find solutions.

Has there been anything specific that helped you move forward in your role?
My nutrition program, “Healthy Path Market,” was created by an amazing female entrepreneur who is our CEO, and having her confidence and guidance has inspired me to be a leader. I think it’s really important to feel empowered to create and to be able to try new things even without being sure of their success.

Also, being able to acquire new knowledge via continuing education in PR and exposure to the food industry on a national level has expanded my mindset when considering opportunities and new approaches. Presenting my story, programs, and strategies with colleagues and in national forums has also given me more confidence.

Is there a program or initiative that you’re working on now that you’d like to tell us about?
For the past year, my team and I have been working specifically on engaging more customers to incorporate more items from the produce department in their regular meals. We have created an incentive for all our nutrition clients who attend their follow-up visits at the in-store nutrition clinic. Every follow-up visit gets a $30 voucher for the sole purchase of produce items. It’s important to note that every client has the opportunity of receiving this incentive which helps them meet their nutritional goals while receiving a nutritional intervention. Our statistics for the past six months show that 97% of our clients used their vouchers. Another strategy that we use is to include the produce area in every Nutri-tour offered in our three stores. These tours include valuable information about the benefits of following dietary guidelines for specific needs. Our produce area has a “dietitian’s pick” logo identifying the best sources of vitamins and minerals for this section. This strategy is ideal for our customers to feel guided even if the dietitian is not present at the time of their visit.

Where do you see the role of the retail dietitian heading?
I consider constant evolution a key to success. I believe retail dietitians need to get more aligned with the next generation’s interests. Food trends are constantly evolving, but I have noticed that the mindset of consumers is changing even more rapidly. Data shows that we see more customers searching for specialty items, and they are willing to pay more for these options. It is reported that retailers consider health programs as growth opportunities, and they even consider their responsibility to have health programs for their customers. These facts emphasize the opportunity for our profession.

Retail dietitians need to be visible advocates for healthy living and establish themselves as trusted experts in their communities. In Puerto Rico, I am the only retail dietitian, so I see this profession expanding to every retail space. I hope to write for RDBA again in a couple of years and present how many dietitians in Puerto Rico have joined in the retail space.

You attended NGA (and stopped by the CMA Annual Conference) with your CEO earlier this year. What were two or three big takeaways from that trip?
In-store experience was the major takeaway for me. It is very important for the customer to feel the message in every possible sense. The pandemic is over, customers are ready and eager to be back to face-to-face experiences but without leaving the virtual world. That is why we need to revamp strategies and find a way to incorporate both worlds.

We had the opportunity of attending conferences that showed growth examples when the experts joined the team; with this, a great takeaway was to always measure the outcomes. Looking back leads us to look forward and motivates us to keep creating and innovating.

Another great takeaway was the importance of networking. When great organizations join forces, the result is amazing, so being able to attend NGA and CMA, both with multiple organizations collaborating, was a great reminder of the great outcomes that result from internal and external alliances.

About Mariely Rosado Martínez, MHSN, LND, RDN:
Mariely is an active member of the nutrition organizations “Colegio de Nutricionistas y Dietistas de Puerto Rico,” Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance. She currently works as a fetail dietitian in the nutrition program Healthy Path Markets from three supermarkets in Puerto Rico. She completed a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and a second one in nutrition ciences from the University of PR and graduated with a Master’s degree in Health and Sciences of Nutrition from the Medical Science campus of the University of PR. In addition, Mariely fulfilled the nutrition internship program at the VA Caribbean Healthcare Hospital in San Juan, PR, and has received awards in her career such as “2021 Outstanding Dietitian of the Year” from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, PR chapter and “2020 RD of the Year” from the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance. Some of her recent certifications include Professional Food Buyer Training from the Cornell Institute for Food System and Supermarket Business Training for Retail Dietitians from the AND. She has a specialty certification from the local nutrition association “Colegio de Nutricionistas y Dietistas de Puerto Rico” in Medical Nutrition Therapy for Weight Management in Adults and a certification in Medical Nutrition Therapy for Gastrointestinal Diseases.

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