What’s one cool thing you’ve done in the past year to help elevate/promote health and wellness at retail?

Holly Doan: At the height of the pandemic, people were eating at home more than ever and it didn’t take long for meal fatigue to set in. As a way to inspire our customers, I launched a vendor-partnered series called Feature Friday. This idea was crafted from one of the things I missed most about being an in-store retail dietitian: showcasing better-for-you products. I loved walking through the aisles with our customers and seeing their smiles as we would sample a product together that not only tasted good but also supported their nutrition goals. Feature Friday lets us do that, just in a different way.

Feature Friday is a free virtual class that I host each week at noon and is part of our larger nutritionist team virtual education programming that we started early in the pandemic to continue serving our communities. At each class, I feature a different brand, highlighting their product line and educating on its nutrition perks. I also [dive deep] into the brand’s story, mission and corporate impact within their communities. My goal is to expose the viewers to the products as much as I can virtually, whether that’s opening packages to showcase the ingredients, taste testing or bringing the product to life by making it in real time. Lastly, I demonstrate an easy recipe from the brand’s website to link back to their recipe database. This all happens in a quick 30 minutes but leaves a lasting impact on our customers as they shop our stores. An added bonus is that a majority of vendors will partner to provide coupons and/or swag for our class participants, which gives them the opportunity to try the featured products for free or at a lower cost. It’s been a blast introducing our customers to these stellar brands, their incredible stories and products. It brings me such joy as a dietitian to hear the excitement from our customers of how these classes are changing their shopping habits and overall health.

What’s next as we ease out of the pandemic?

Change brings opportunity. Pivoting through the pandemic has brought forth innovative and impactful changes to the way we operate. It’s hard to know what the future will hold, but I do believe that hybrid education will be a core part of it. Having a virtual component to our nutrition program has been a fundamental piece that we didn’t realize we needed prior to 2020. While our footprint could only reach so far, with the addition of a virtual component, our reach has become limitless. This capability has taken our nutrition program to the next level. It’s truly something incredible when you can virtually cook alongside 80 others—all from our own kitchens—and work to create delicious and nutritious meals together for our families. I’m excited to see where the future takes us!