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The Year Ahead: Demonstrations and dietitians

Even with the many venues for storytelling, in-store demonstrations are still important.

The first hurdle is getting consumers to try something new. But once they do, they often become loyal, repeat customers. One way to attract shoppers is through retail displays, another is through dietitians.

Dietitians can spread the word about nutritional benefits through social media, publications, tastings and demos, and by collaborating with in-store pharmacies.

“The in-store demo is a great way to engage shoppers in a way they can’t be engaged online,” advocates author Elaine Magee, who serves as wellness services corporate dietitian for Albertsons Companies LLC, based in Boise, ID.

“What can we (dietitians) offer in a store? Unique food and experiences that engage shoppers in new ways,” says Magee. “As retailers struggle to reclaim in-person shopping, a dietitian can offer something extra.”

Albertsons built a network of 200 contracted dietitians who participate in tastings and other health or nutritional programs developed by Magee, across the chain’s stores. The retailer also plans to build an in-house dietitian program, piloting the idea in a Boise store.

Produce is often featured in in-store demonstrations.

“There’s the potential to take produce, elevate it, and have fun,” says Magee.

Currently in 10 stores, with plans to expand to 15 in 2019, the program involves four demonstrations per month on a common theme, with programming including tastings, experiences, and how-to information on buying and cooking the selected commodity.

Half of the sponsors are produce organizations; one included a Mushroom Council promotion, focused on Italian meatballs made from a ground beef and spinach/mushroom blend, which was quite successful.

Magee also promotes the events through her blog and social media channels. “We’ve created a store culture of customers who look forward to the new offerings each month,” she notes.

It’s a win-win for both customers and retailers since the demos increase sales. “We’ve definitely noticed a lift,” Magee says, but stresses that the benefits of dietitian programs extend beyond sales.

“Store directors are excited to see the lift, but they’re mostly excited to see their customers engaged.”


To cap an eventful 2018, Blueprints asked produce suppliers and other experts to look into their crystal balls and weigh in on the trends and issues that will be most prominent in 2019. Karen Raugust is a freelance writer who covers business topics ranging from retailing to the food industry.