A retail dietitian’s impact on public health and sales

A retail dietitian’s impact on public health and sales

We recently worked with Waitrose on an exciting health and nutrition project where we truly saw the impact that a dietitian in retail can have on public health and sales. Moira Howie, Waitrose’s Manager in Nutrition and Health kindly agreed to tell us more about her journey. Here are the highlights.

When the opportunity to be a retail nutritionist came my way… I couldn’t resist. I knew that what people ate impacted their health so what better way to bring about changes than by helping to shape their weekly shopping basket. It sounds simple and easy but in reality the general public are quite resistant to change and those good intentions don’t always translate into practical action.

Adopting a multi-faceted approach to helping consumers choose a healthier diet yields the best results. The early creation of an online nutrition advice service containing a wealth of topical information helped to grow and build consumer trust in accessing sensible and practical advice. Consumers seem to struggle in getting information that meets their specific dietary needs therefore bespoke shopping lists are always in demand. New technology has changed the shape of this information from paper to screen to phone but the requests remain the same “help me know the things I can eat as opposed to the things I can’t!” This essence of practical help extends through all publications from inspirational recipe cards carrying our Living Well logo to weekly and monthly columns on topical health concerns. But communication in itself is never going to solve the wider public health problems.

The changes required are more fundamental ranging from policy to product. Developing nutrition policy and setting strategic direction to deliver the ambition is at the heart of what we do. Policy needs to reflect latest nutritional thinking and be commercially appropriate for the retail setting. This approach enables our business to play a key role in helping to reduce calories, saturated fat, sugar and salt – those nutrients of concern in the UK diet and also to set goals for increasing fibre, vegetables, fruit and oily fish intakes to help achieve dietary balance. The nutrition policy influences new product development, drives nutrition reformulation and helps our suppliers to create great tasting products.

While scientific recommendations provide us with the evidence and the numbers it is the translation of these into real foods for our shopping baskets and recipes for our family tables that will make the difference. Successive governments have a keen interest in a healthier population and recognise that collaborative working achieves more. The Public Health Responsibility Deal has overseen decreasing salt levels in the UK diet, introduced the ‘easy to use’ front of pack labelling system that is now the norm across much of the food industry. These are significant successes and retailing will continue this momentum to bring about similar changes which impact public health in a positive way.

Moira Howie February 2016
Manager, Nutrition & Health

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