Lost in the Supermarket

Hy-Vee Sets Pace in Retail Health and Wellness: An Interview with Leadership

August 13, 2019
Lost in the Supermarket
Hy-Vee Sets Pace in Retail Health and Wellness: An Interview with Leadership
Chapters
Lost in the Supermarket
Hy-Vee Sets Pace in Retail Health and Wellness: An Interview with Leadership
Aug 13, 2019
SupermarketGuru
Show Notes Transcript

Hy-Vee was the first company to name a Vice President of Retail Dietetics, and recently created a Group Vice President role overseeing health markets. In this podcast, hear from Elisa Sloss, RD, Group Vice President of Health Markets, and Stacey Loftus, RD, LD, and Julie McMillin, RD, LD, Assistant Vice Presidents, Retail Dietetics on how the company is setting the pace in retail health and wellness, what drives company support of programming, and how leaders like them find work-life balance in the high-pressure retail environment. Hosted by Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, Executive Director of the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance.

:
Phil Lempert:
0:09
Welcome to Lost in the Supermarket. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. Hy-Vee is a retailer that has shown a commitment to helping their shoppers live healthier lives for many years and in fact leads the industry. Hy-Vee has the largest retail dietitian program in the US and are the first retailer to name of vice person of retail dietetics Annette Maggi, Executive Director of the Retail Dietitians Business Alliance sat down with Elisa Sloss, RD, Group Vice President of Health Markets,, Stacey Loftus, RD, LD, and Julie McMillin, RD, LD, Assistant Vice Presidents, Retail Dietetics . Julie in fact was the first recipient of RDBA's RD of The year award in 2015. Their discussion is focused on how Hy-Vee is setting the pace in retail health and wellness. What drives company support of this programming and how leaders like them find work life balance in the high pressure retail environment. Annette, I'll turn it over to you.
Julie:
1:08
Thanks Phil. Elisa, Stacy and Julie. Um, thanks so much for joining us today. We're thrilled to have you here to talk more about how high BIA setting pace in the retail health and wellness environment and giving your leadership both within the profession and at retail. It's exciting to have you share your insights and knowledge with our audience today. So Elisa I want to start with you. Congratulations on your recent promotion to group vice president. Tell us about your new role.
Elisa:
1:36
Well, thank you. Um, it's very exciting. Um, this is honestly been my dream job, so I am super excited to be in this new role. I am the group Vice President of health markets in our company. So I'm focusing on the health market department. I'm responsible for health market strategy, which includes, you know, really the department vision. Um, innovation in sales. I help with merchandising, I work with our team to update and develop planograms for the health market. Um, I am involved in ad writing, so I write weekly print and digital ads for the health market. And then I'm really passionate about product trends and diets. So I'm always working to stay ahead of the trends and find the next big products.
Julie:
2:17
Yeah. You know, your role really exemplifies how retail Dietitians really need to understand the business world. Right. And, um, all of the metrics and the goals and priorities of a retail company really shine through and the role that you have now. So that's really exciting. Um, Elisa, when you took this role, you jumped several title levels, which is super exciting. Um, for the profession as a whole. Is this normal movement in the retail environment from your perspective or what are the super power skills that help you make this move?
Elisa:
2:52
Huh. Well, I don't know if anything is normal in retail. You know, you just always evolve and change. Um, and I definitely don't know if I have any super skills, but you know, I think a lot of the skills that really helped me grow in this role stems from being a dietician. So anything I want to do, I want to be the best at. So my first job in Hy-Vee was actually a health market manager before I became a dietician and finished my internship. So I've always had this love and passion for health markets. But as for I became a dietician, you know, I really left that world for awhile, so I had to work on skills that I never thought I would have to learn again, like ordering shelving. So that's been really interesting. Um, so I just worked so hard when I got into my new role as a health market supervisor, I wanted to learn everything.
Elisa:
3:37
You know, I think a little competition is always healthy. So I wanted to have the best sets and the most updated health markets. So I really took that, the dietician skills I had and applied them to business and really adapted on how to make the health market that next level health market. So, you know, my favorite part is really coming up with these innovative sets and that's where I really fell back on my dietician skills and kind of looked at where the trends were going. So I thought, you know, as a mom as well, that I was seeing that allergen friendly was a very developing area. You know, my kid couldn't take treats to school that were individually wrapped and free from all the top eight allergens. So I helped develop an eight foot allergen friendly set that lives within our gluten-free aisles. So it's gluten free and then free from all the top eight allergens. Um, and then we looked at the next big trends with Keto and Paleo and grain-free. So it's been really great to kind of marry my dietician skills with the business world. So I just always think, you know, keep an open mind, be agile, start to learn things you aren't comfortable with ordering shelving and learning all that terminology and then that's the way to really make it work.
Julie:
4:49
You know, I'm realizing as you're talking to Lisa that obviously I live within Ivy Marcus and I have Heidi stores near me. But can you explain for our listeners today what health markets are?
Elisa:
5:01
Oh yeah, absolutely. Yep. So the health market is kind of a store within a store concept. It is our natural organic vitamin and supplements and sports nutrition area.
Julie:
5:12
Perfect. Thank you. Yeah, I think, you know, I'm so familiar with it cause I shop your stores but others might not be. Julie, I'd love to hear from you about how the creation of Elisa's role and aligning health markets more strategically with the RD program. What does it say about your company's commitment to health and wellness?
Julie:
5:31
Absolutely. So we're very fortunate at Hy-Vee health and wellness is actually one of our three pillars right behind customer service and culinary expertise. So it's really elevated as a focus for the entire company. A truly health markets are just an extension of health and wellness for Hy-Vee. So with Elisa's expertise and science based knowledge of being a registered dietitian, she's going to be able to transform the health markets to better align with our store dietitian program. Now with that being said, you know, there's always going to be the new diet trends, but I think with Elisa's leadership, again as a registered dietician, she's going to be able to better educate our in store Dietitians, which then in turn is going to better educate our customers as well. Um, one of the things with our customer service and our dieticians, we're always telling our dietitians, they've got to meet those customers where they're at in their wellness journey. Um, but by giving them this strong education around, um, the trends and the diets, anything new coming into the market, this is just going to give them a better tool box to work from. Um, as at least I mentioned there is a lot of new sets coming down the pipe. Um, and again, just having a registered dietician behind building and creating those new sites has been amazing. I don't know, Alyssa, if you, if you want to go into any of the other sets that we have planned on the agenda.
Elisa:
6:56
Yeah, sure. Um, I think the number one we're rolling out as allergen friendly and then we really started developing and setting Quito, uh, Paleo grain free snacks have become a huge trend in our health markets. And then the rise of meatless protein and that flexitarian movement. We've developed a Vegan sets and a lot and really you leaned in hard on meatless proteins.
Julie:
7:18
Awesome. I don't know, it's too early for us to talk about our self diagnostic tests.
Elisa:
7:25
um, we definitely see that as a growth area and something that we're looking at more and more as people are getting into that self-diagnostic and taking healthcare into their own hands and really becoming that personalized wellness piece.
Julie:
7:37
Perfect. Yeah, it's interesting too. Um, Julia, the point you make about so much of what dieticians use, um, today goes beyond kind of what we were trained for in college and through maybe early roles that we had that kind of given what the consumer is looking at in your shoppers are looking at for in your stores. We've really got to expand our knowledge base kind of beyond just some nutrition and its impact on health. So some really good points made there. Stacy, you know, Julie mentioned that health and wellness is one of the top three pillars, um, for the Hy-Vee company. What's attributes of the Hy-Vee culture have led this such strong support of health and wellness programming throughout the company and FSE suite level?
Stacy:
8:24
Yeah. Honestly, I would say it's our executive leadership that has really strongly supported the Dietitians and their role in the retail setting. Uh, one of our past CEO's actually developed our mission statement making lives easier, healthier and happier where our current CEO actually developed the three pillars that Julie mentioned, health and wellness being one of our three pillars that we focus on as a company. So you can see we're pretty lucky that our executives over the years have seen the value that our retail dietitians bring to the
Julie:
8:56
perfect. Um, you know, when you were speaking to Lisa a little bit about some of the stats that you're moving forward with in health markets. You talked about sort of things like Keto and Paleo, um, in, in retail dietetics, we often talk about that, the role of the retailers to provide the shopper with choice. But as we all know, there isn't strong science on some of these topics that consumers are pursuing in these, um, eating styles and eating habits that they're pursuing. But at least that I know of the, the R D team at Hy-Vee obviously takes a very strong stance on science and the quality of messaging and shopper engagement on health. But at the same time, not all products sold in health markets as we were just talking about have scientific consensus on a health benefit. So how do you reconcile those two?
Elisa:
9:48
Yeah, and that's definitely where I'm, I get to wear two hats in my role. I think, you know, when I talk to Dietitians, we talk a lot about this. And the most important thing to remember in dietetics, especially in retail dietetics, is to really meet that consumer where they're at. So, you know, I get a lot of people in the aisles who are so passionate about their new diets and they've read everything on Pinterest and everything on their friends' blogs and things like that. So if you immediately shut them down, they're not gonna come to you is that nutrition expert. So I think it's really important to start that line of communication. You know, like, what are your goals? You know, a lot of times they're trying to lose weight to improve A1C levels, or they might be diabetic or have other goals in mind.
Elisa:
10:30
And so you really want to talk to them about what positive changes are trying to make. And you know, if they're dead set on the Keto Diet, you know, it's not something that's easy to do longterm. So ask them to keep you updated, you know, step on my office, tell me how you're doing. You know, and as they're ready to add those carbohydrates back in, you can give good recommendation on, you know, better for you choices even within that Keto Diet. So maybe not eating bacon every day, you know, maybe we can find a different alternative protein. Um, so I think as people come in, you need to meet them where they're at, show them, you know, this is our Keto section, but you know, this site, it's really hard to stay on forever. So if you're ever open to talking about different ways, I can help you meet your goals, you know, keep me in mind to come talk to me.
Julie:
11:13
Oh, right. Yeah, I agree. Um, and I like that approach. I think it makes sense for sure. Have there ever been products where you've said, no, we're really not comfortable carrying this in health markets?
Elisa:
11:24
Yes. [inaudible] Yup. There have been. Yeah. I mean, I, I can't shut it completely off. I am a dietician, so I need to use my best judgment in those ways too.
Julie:
11:35
Yeah, it's hard to completely shut it off. Is that fair?
Elisa:
11:39
Yeah, you definitely can't. And that's one of the reasons, you know, I think that I've been successful in this role too. I, I know when to say yes, we're not going to carry that.
Julie:
11:47
Right. So it's kind of, um, finding that line in the sand, which you won't cross, which could potentially be harmful to consumers or I'm really have very limited science. I can appreciate that for sir. Um, we're going to shift gears just a little bit. And you know, I've had the pleasure of knowing all three of you first several years and I know that all of you are moms and all of you are really in the midst of, of kind of balancing life with jobs that are big and getting bigger every day. But you know, retail can be a really high pressure business with high expectations of staff like you in leadership roles. So what do you do to find work life balance and to make it all work?
Julie:
12:32
I'll go ahead and start this one off and that, um, this is Julie. Interesting. When I first came into the office, one of the executives pulled me aside and said, um, they, they understand these roles can be demanding. So his challenge was to always put faith and family first. And that's always stuck with me, that we're so fortunate to work for a company that allows us to do that. But so many, few times when I get this question from other young leaders and we start really evaluating what's going on and why they are struggling with balancing this, we discover that it's not always the company that puts this pressure or expectations on us, but rather is ourselves. We are so critical in judging of our own, um, the amount of work we put into things we always want to try to accomplish. One more task and one more thing done.
Julie:
13:21
Um, so, so one of the things I've really started to do is at the end of the day, I look through that priority list and we've all got it. Here's the things we want to get done today. Um, and if that item can wait just one more day and honestly, sometimes I think it's just 12 hours. Um, I'll move that to the top of the priority list for the next day. Um, and I, I kind of want to hand it off to Stacy a little bit from here because honestly I've learned so much from Stacy over the last few years. She, she's kind of, we joke sometimes we're uno and dos and she's the one. Um, and I think you have to have that person that makes you feel okay to go to the ball game or to, um, go and spend time with the family. And Stacy's really that person for me. Um, I think she does an amazing job of always putting family first. Um, so, so I don't know if Stacy, if you have some, some additions to that too,
Stacy:
14:14
think thanks. Um, yeah. You know, you mentioned that there too, that support team is just so important. Um, whether that's a coworker or your family, like you just have to have, to me that support, the balancing, talking about that work life balance balance to me is just very personalized. Um, it's defined differently by everyone and you have to really do what works for you. Um, keeping those priorities. And Julie mentioned just in line and setting goals of where you personally want to be. So that might be self care. That might be you as a mom or you as a daughter or friend. It might be you as the employee, it might be the things that you do in your community or even your religion. So just really having them, the balance of what works for you and like Julie mentioned that support team is really critical cause it brings that perspective back to balance a little bit.
Julie:
15:10
Elisa anything you'd add?
Elisa:
15:13
Sounds like I need to spend a little bit more time with Julian Stacy cause I don't think perfect Dallin's quite figured out yet. Um, I definitely think it's just a process that I'm working on every day, but I really am a planner and an organized person so I try to really maximize all my time. So, uh, you know, during the lunch hour I focus on my personal care and I choose to work out during that time. Um, and then during the weekends I meal prep and try and get outfits laid out for the girls and just get everybody in line and organized. So our work life week just flows a little bit better.
Julie:
15:47
You know, it's interesting and some of the comments that all of you made to, um, uh, probably six weeks, eight weeks ago we ran an article in the Rdba newsletter about self care and it was an article that we had perhaps the biggest response to I heard from so many retail dietitians about how they needed to hear that and they needed to really think about refocusing and shifting back to self care and taking some time for that. So I do think that's a really important piece of work life balance that we sometimes overlook. Um, and I like to Stacey your comments about knowing what balance means to you because it is different for everybody and kind of knowing what you really want and that self reflection is important too. So I think all great, um, tips for others who are in a similar situation, similar environment. And Stacy, we know that the role of the retail dietician is continually evolving and obviously your roles continue to evolve all in a good way, it sounds like. But how do you see that the role of the retail dietitian has changed over the past two years?
Stacy:
16:55
Yes. So you nailed it. Are you kale is ever changing. So the retail Dietitians have to adapt and be agile at the same time. You know, you've heard healthcare costs are rising, obesity is going up. Uh, hopefully you've heard about dir fees hitting pharmacy and we're going through this generational change with millennials and Gen z. So we really have to adapt and identify areas of needs that Dietitians can help with. So it just talks about personalization a little bit, but personalization is becoming more and more of a trend. So you have to be able to adapt to the needs of the customers and meet them where they're at in their health journey. We're seeing a lot of trends and diets. For example, kind of going back to what Lisa talked about, um, customers come to us for the newest fad diet. So we have a great opportunity. There's this to keep up to date with those, uh, trends and fad diets and help them again, their health journey along the way. Some, an example of a, what we've identified as our biggest costs in the pharmacy is diabetes and heart disease. So one of the opportunities we've taken is aligning our store tour topics around these focus areas as well to help combat those costs. So it's definitely changing and gonna keep changing, um, throughout the years.
Julie:
18:15
And it's interesting because one of the things I think, um, we don't often think about that the important part of that process and that evolution is you also have to be willing, right to let go of maybe some programs that aren't performing well. And I think that's a business skill for retail that Dietitians really need. Would you agree Stacy?
Stacy:
18:35
Absolutely. And we've, we've done that exact thing and not that we've just let them go completely there. They're on the back burner if that becomes a trend again. So, um, but it's re 15 year focus to keep them current with the retail.
Julie:
18:49
So Julie, we talked a little bit about where we've come over the past two years, but what do you see as the greatest challenges as challenges and opportunities for the profession moving forward? You Bet. So I'm gonna start with the positive and um, kind of go with the opportunities for Dietitians. Learning retail, um, is really, it opens up possibilities and the possibilities become endless. So take Elisa for example, I'm going to brag about her a little bit. Um, she's now a group vice president leading a department that is president and over 75% of our stores, there's actually a round 150 health markets in our company. It's no small task honestly. Um, she's also leading a team of, uh, six retail supervisors that are out on the road. So she's, she's gone from taking that role where she was really helping stores to now she has a team that directly reports to her.
Julie:
19:41
She's managing schedules, she's managing, they cation, everything like that goes along with managing personalities and she's had to learn that. Um, and then, uh, a large procurement team. So I know I ran into Lisa and forth one time when she was building a health market. She goes from ordering all the supplies to build a gondola from the ground up. Um, and I kind of laughed because if I would have put together one of those shelving units, it probably would have fell down the very next second. Um, but that's all things. She's, she's accepted those challenges. She's taken them on and that was really amazing and we're, we're very extremely proud of her. Um, but we also have registered dieticians leading our Q and a teen better, um, fresh commissaries. We have two of those now. Um, we also have a registered dietician in the regulatory and safety team and we also have a Dietitian in marketing.
Julie:
20:33
So again, as Lisa alluded to, it's about being open minded and learning new tasks and, and doing the best that you can do with any position that you're asked to take on. Um, for the, for the challenge that comes is honestly making sure that the retail executives understand that train and the knowledge of the dietician and continually fighting to help us be accepted as more than just the dietician. And if you could see me, I'm using air quotes there. Um, because, because all of us have those traits and skills that, that make us more than just the dietician. Well, thanks enough. Yeah. And I think [inaudible]
Julie:
21:12
Julie, you make some good points. You know, I remember at one time a Wegmans had a dietitian who had become a cheesemonger. And sometimes I think you have to move out into other roles in retail to better understand the totality of the business, but it makes you stronger in your skillset and your roles and how you'll drive health and wellness at retail. Um, so I think some of your comments are really true of where all those open opportunities and just to really be open minded, like you said, about where the possibilities might be. So my last question is really for all of you, um, you know, Hy-Vee has shown such leadership and health and wellness, you really are in my mind, the gold standard and so much of what you do related to health and wellness. So what advice would you as leaders within the space that Hy-Vee give to other retail dietician programs who might be struggling to get the corporate support they need for health and wellness strategies and dietitians in the right leadership roles?
Elisa:
22:13
Yeah, I think we're so lucky to have health and Mama's as part of our three pillars. I mean that's really set us apart from some other companies, but I think too, you just gotta be that passionate person and have those innovative ideas. So if you think about it, you know, how can you best serve your customer base but also contribute to the company. If you can come with, you know, data, talking about how consumers are really like trending there, they're more aware than ever and what's in their food and what they're looking for on those packages. So if you can be that voice and that expert and help your company find those right items to carry, I think that is a huge contribution to your bottom line.
Julie:
22:53
Yeah. And honestly starting with the basics, I know when we've all come into the office, that was one of the things we wanted to make sure everybody knew what a Dietitian is, understand their training. Um, it's probably been about seven years ago that we really sat down and went over what the training is that a dietician goes through. And if you think back to your internships, you know, we have a clinical rotation at community rotation of food service rotation. Um, go back to those and ask how can a dietician pull into every one of those areas within the retail space. Um, and I think that's key. And over time we've, we've eventually got there. We still have some wood to chop for sure, but we're getting there. Um, but then also discovering new passions, um, and new opportunities in the, Lisa alluded to, passion is the key. I would have never ever in a million years, ever guess that I, I have a passion for employee wellness. I absolutely love the benefit of taking care of not only our employees, but then also taking the services that we offer to our employees. Kind of use them as Guinea pigs and then building a business model and honestly bringing in an additional revenue stream off of, off of that passion and building around it.
Stacy:
24:05
Yeah, I would say along with that too, you have to tell your story. I show them what you can do for your customers and how you can really build that loyalty. There's obviously the return on investment piece, but there's so many intangibles in the retail dietician space and you had to really share your story to help build that awareness of your value.
Julie:
24:30
Um, one of the things that interests me, and you know, I've known all three of you and you've moved through so much transition over the years with Hy-Vee and really built these programs to be what they are. But none of you said positivity. And that's one thing that's been my experience with all three of you is you all have such positive attitudes and you know that yes, there are some times that that, that back, but it's definitely a two steps forward, one step back kind of thing. And you always strive to derive the agenda forward. And I think that's an amazing skill that you all have honestly. But I, I mean, I'd love to hear your thoughts, but I think that really has helped you be as successful as you are at Hy-Vee.
Elisa:
25:11
Well thank you. It's nice to hear that you're positive. No, and I completely agree with you because not everybody in our company, you know, is going to necessarily see the vision and what dieticians are able to contribute. So, you know, sometimes it is two steps backwards, but you know, if you're just that relentless person and you're relevant, likely positive, and you kind of are able to spend your thoughts into action and I think you've [inaudible]
Julie:
25:34
yeah, a lot accomplished even with setbacks. Perfect. Well, thank you so much Elisa and Julianne. Stacy, it's been such a pleasure to talk with you today and just learn more about how you really help build health and wellness and the rd program to be so successful for Hy-Vee, but as well for Hy-Vee shoppers. Right. And I know that's the goal at the end of the day, is to help people live healthier lives, but at the same time, supporting the business growth of your company. So again, thank you so much for joining us today. Thank you.