by Kevin Coupe

Never underestimate the persuasive power of a retail dietitian.

I certainly did, in part because I’ve never encountered one in my decades of grocery shopping in the New York metropolitan area. In my mind, a registered dietitian was a rather stern figure with a long list of what not to eat.

But reviewing successful campaigns from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) 2017 National Family Meals Month (NFMM) program, it became clear that a store dietitian can play a valuable role in creating meaningful dialogue and a relationship with the consumer – online and on site.

While still tallying participation numbers and social media metrics, the folks at FMI said this year’s effort was the best and most celebrated since its inception in 2015. NFMM is aimed at encouraging households to add one more meal together each week, citing well-founded research that children who regularly share meals with their family achieve higher grades and self-esteem, healthier eating habits and weight, and less risky behavior.

The campaigns that gained the most traction utilized omnichannel marketing strategies, ands showcased their dietitians as a relatable resource, face and voice of the brand.

At Festival Foods in Wisconsin, the three registered dietitians who cover the state have ditched that title in favor of “Mealtime Mentors” and have a strong presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, with how-to recipe videos. They upped their game in September, partnering with the statewide TV show “The Better Half,” which features the wives of players on the Green Bay Packers.

Given the Packers’ immense popularity in the state, it was a win-win. Each “mealtime mentors” turned over her Instagram to a Packer wife for a “day in the life” and personal family meal strategies. A 30-minute Facebook Live event featuring nutritionist Lauren Tulig and Heaven Daniels, wife of Green Bay defensive tackle Mike Daniels, has already garnered more than 6,700 views. Festival had introduced the concept with a Facebook Live event earlier in September, and encouraged shoppers to participate, send in questions and tips in advance and win gift cards. Instead of being a one-way video, it emphasized a healthy brand-consumer relationship and easy, affordable meals for busy families.

Wegman’s Krystle Register was another registered dietitian who was on local television emphasizing the importance of family meals. Register, a busy working mother of two, is all about offering simple strategies for success, even saying it was okay rely on prepared foods when need be to get a meal on the table.

She said for Wegmans, promoting health and wellness is a year-round effort through in-store and online promotions, its chefs and nutritionists, store brands and Menu Magazine. She summed up the importance of the family meal perfectly: “It’s a time to listen, learn, connect and nourish.”

This makes me wish that my local Food Emporium had featured a supportive store or regional dietitian when I was juggling work, two kids, sports and after-school activities and trying to rustle up a somewhat healthy dinner. It would’ve been nice to have a steady diet of useful information.

Comments? As always, send them to me at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .