Retail Registered Dietitians/Nutritionists: The Way To Americans’ Hearts & Carts When It Comes To Eating More Produce

Retailers have long played a significant role in impacting consumer decisions at the point of purchase. In the fall of 2020, the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH) conducted its Have A Plant® Retail Ambassador Survey to gain insights related to fruit and vegetable promotion efforts by retail registered dietitians/nutritionists (RD/RDNs). While PBH has long supported the amazing work of retail dietitians, we were blown away by the survey results showing that 61 percent of respondents are promoting fruits and vegetables every day. Yes, every week and every day! Extrapolating this data to the more than 800 retail RDs in North America, these credentialed and trusted influencers are reaching more than 3.5 million shoppers directly with fruit and vegetable promotional programming in addition to more than 182 million consumers through their digital and social media platforms.

There are multiple steps along the consumer path to purchase from planning meals and finding new recipes, grocery list making, online research, searching items in-store or through e-commerce, purchase, and preparation at home. The PBH Have A Plant® Retail Ambassador Survey revealed that retail dietitians take a true omnichannel approach to shopper engagement, with fruit and vegetable promotions at every step of the shopper path to purchase.

For example, Giant Food offers a produce prescription program at one store in partnership with DC Greens, AmeriHealth Caritas District of Columbia, and the DC Department of Health. Through the program, eligible consumers with a specified health condition receive a $20 coupon per week to spend on produce along with store tours from Giant’s dietitian. Another example includes the Hy-Vee Substitute Teacher video series, where healthy ingredients, including fruits and vegetables, are added and/or substituted into recipes. Eggplant Pizza and Pineapple Fried Right Rice inspire families to add fruits and vegetables to their favorite meals. The Coborn’s RD Team offers their Kids Cook at Home program with virtual classes that often include fruits and vegetables in recipes like Pear Monster Mouths, Peanut Butter and Banana Energy Bites, and watermelon popsicles. At PBH, we recently held a PBH Train-The-Trainer Cook-Along for our Have A Plant® Retail RD Ambassadors, helping them to perfect shopper engagement in these offerings.

Grocery e-commerce has grown significantly through the pandemic; key challenges for retailers in this space are getting shoppers to stay on the sites longer and browse more; make purchases not necessarily on their original shopping list; and purchase fresh items such as produce in the same amounts and at the same frequency as when shopping in-store. Health and wellness messaging – from banner ads to videos to shoppable recipes – can be effective ways to engage the shoppers online, and 30 percent of the PBH Have A Plant® Retail Ambassador Survey respondents indicate partnering with e-commerce teams to solve these unique challenges.

When asked the fruit and vegetable trends that are of highest interest to them, Have A Plant® Retail Ambassadors indicate strong interest in getting ahead of the curve regarding the next vegetable innovation beyond cauliflower rice and zoodles, turnkey ideas on how to cook and sell seasonal produce, and inspirational ideas to help the home cook more effectively and manage food waste.

Food retail plays a significant role in engaging the shopper with fruit and vegetable promotions along the path to purchase, and PBH continues to support retailers with research updates, turnkey resources and programs as well as inspiration experiences. For example, given consumers’ continued interest in immune health, the PBH in partnership with the Mushroom Council recently launched an immune health retail signage package that retailers can easily print and post in-store or use in digital to drive shopper engagement. PBH also recently launched the Have A Plant® Goes Global Retail Activation Playbook for National Fruits & Veggies Month 2021; the playbook is full of retail promotion insights, ideas and inspiration to tap into today’s food and flavor trends.

So what’s the next zucchini noodle? Whether it’s jackfruit or brussels sprouts, arming this group of influential retail professionals is critical to advancing the dialogue around and fruit and vegetable consumption in America, and better yet, getting people to eat and enjoy more fruits and vegetables every single day for better health and happiness. #haveaplant

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