Oldways Supermarket Dietitian Symposium: Transforming Retail Health

March 6, 2019

The Ask: To strengthen the power of Supermarket RDs in shaping how shoppers buy healthy food through sharing of insights, ideas and vision in a non-competitive, collaborative space.

The Challenge: No existing event or platform for supermarket dietitians (RDs) developed/led by a supermarket RD who understands their unique needs and the challenges they face.

The Solution: Create an annual symposium for supermarket RDs that provides networking, cutting edge educational programming (CPEs) and collaboration with food industry partners.

The Approach: Partner with a non-profit organization (Oldways) that has a shared commitment to promote food and health that is highly regarding for their experience in coordinating highly regarded culinaria events.

A Passion To Lead, Network & Educate

As a thought-leader and founding partner in the creation of the Oldways Supermarket Dietitian Symposium, my goals:(1) To elevate the role and value of these nutrition professionals in making an impact on consumer health and well-being; (2) strengthen the skills (business, marketing, technology) of RDs to maximize their role in retail; and (3) create synergies and alignment between retailers and food industry partners to improve nutritional value of consumer food products.

The role of visionary and hands-on events manager for nearly 10 years has given me the opportunity to:

  • Engage with hundreds of supermarket RDs across the U.S., Canada, Europe, Israel, Australia and worldwide.
  • Collaborate with food industry brand leaders and commodity groups to raise nearly $3M to host 8 events, while covering all of the costs for Retail RDs to attend.
  • Keep a pulse on the latest food, health, retail trends and identify expert speakers to plan a cutting- edge educational program accredited by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (12+ CPEs).

The History

In 2008, after leaving Boston and moving to Phoenix to pursue a new career as a supermarket dietitian, I was yearning to find other supermarket RDs colleagues I could learn from, network with and share ideas on how to collectively make the greatest impact. Social media wasn’t the answer – Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn were not a think yet, so the dietetics list serve was how I found my tribe.

A Strong Partnership Built on Shared Values

Just ten years ago, events tailored specifically to supermarket dietitians did not exist. So, in 2009, while employed full-time for an Arizona-based supermarket chain, I organized my first ever retail dietitian event. I thought it would be a good idea to invite someone from Oldways so that they could share materials and participate in the discussion at this inaugural event.  Who knew that we would join forces a year later, in 2010, and launch an annual Oldways Supermarket Dietitian Symposium and host 8 more events!This powerful partnership was built upon our common goal to promote healthy eating and a shared belief that supermarket dietitians have great potential to impact public health both locally and globally. As an established non-profit organization, Oldways was an ideal partner that was committed to supporting the educational focus of the event. There is no other event like the one we created together that is focused on helping retailers promote health & wellness in a non-competitive space – and created and led by a former supermarket RD with a close pulse on issues, trends and needs of this unique audience. Furthermore, we set a high standard on the food and meals served at the event – loaded with whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood and good fats, right from the start RDs were raving out the food at this event.


Year after year, the program continuously evolved to meet the needs of supermarket dietitians. Soon after the first event we planned in Napa, CA, an explosion of retail RD focused events started popping up as the value and impact of retail RDs was starting to catch on! Our commitment to offer a one-of-a-kind event that had transformative power to change the face of retail lived on for nearly a decade. After we’d wrap another successful event, we would quickly get started planning the next years’ event. It was fun to read post-event surveys and strategize ways to innovate and improve …and each year we did!

An Invitation-Only Event

All expenses for travel, accommodations and food are included for each of the 50 VIP Retail RDs invited to attend the event. Since retail dietitians have the power to heavily influence decisions based on their nutrition expertise and knowledge of food, it was important for us to remove barriers, such as costs to attend, in order to facilitate powerful collaboration between representatives from the food industry, commodity boards, non-profits, and research scientists. Unlike other retail trade events, we also provided continuing education credits.

Click on the link for each event to view the agenda, look at presentations and view pictures of history being made!

2011-2018 Oldways Supermarket Dietitian Events


Year Event Theme Location
2018 Engaging a New Era of Shoppers San Diego, CA
L’Auberge del Mar
2017 Empowering Advocates for Change Scottsdale, AZ
Hotel Valley Ho
2016 Building Partnerships, Creating Solutions New Orleans, LA
The Ritz Carlton
2015 Healthy Plates, Healthy Planet St. Petersburg, FL
Renaissance Vinoy Resort
2014 Reaching Millions Scottsdale, AZ
Fire Sky Resort
2013 Bridging the Gap for Consumer Health Dallas, TX
Rosewood Mansion
2012 Heritage for Health Savannah, GA
Mansion on Forsyth Park
2011 Changing the American Palate Santa Rosa, CA
The Flamingo


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Changemaker Barbara Ruhs, MS, RDN, is transforming public health by re-envisioning the way food is understood and promoted. A seasoned supermarket dietitian and former Harvard nutritionist, Barb leads the way by offering innovative retail solutions that forge connections between food marketers, market RDs and consumers hungry for truth.


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