Spotlight On: Annette Maggi
Dec 27, 2013
I’ve known of Annette for years – we are both long time DBC members and have a shared interest in retail – but it wasn’t until recently that I met her in person and learned more about her unique background.
MELISSA: Annette, how did you become interested in a career in nutrition?
ANNETTE: I’m a big believer in the idea that the career of nutrition chose me vs. me choosing it. When I was a sophomore in high school, I chose the small intestines as my topic for a research paper, and believe this was foretelling to my career. When I took my first nutrition course in college, I knew this was what I was meant to do.
I started my career in public health working with WIC and later the American Heart Association. I was fortunate enough in 1994 to be hired by the Pillsbury Company to help with implementation of the Nutrition Labeling & Education Act. This started my career in the food industry, and I’m been here ever since. I’ve worked in nutrition strategy and regulatory affairs for Pillsbury, General Mills and Target, and gained retail experience at Target and NuVal LLC. Today, I own my own nutrition marketing and communications consulting firm, specializing in the unique interface of nutrition and regulatory in food manufacturers and retailers.
MELISSA: Wow, from small intestines to the food industry! I think the work you’re doing is so important. Tell me about your nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?
ANNETTE: I’m a realist and a pragmatist, and believe the concept of moderation would solve many of our country’s health problems if we could somehow make the concept sexy enough for consumers to live it every day. In my writing and education, I try and filter through the health and nutrition information that’s out there and focus on what really matters. For example, I’m just now writing a blog on whether an overhaul of the GRAS process is needed, and my point-of-view would be that we have higher priorities as it relates to health and food in our country.
MELISSA: Fascinating article – thank you for sharing it. Plenty of food for thought! So, what inspired you to start your consulting biz?
ANNETTE: I have always loved new jobs, especially those where you have the opportunity to build new processes and structures. When I was hired into Target, I wrote my own job description, built the owned brands labeling team, and launched key initiatives related to nutrition. When the job becomes about managing the day-to-day I tend to get bored. Knowing this about my strengths and style motivated me to start my consulting business. With every new project, there’s a new challenge and the opportunity to build innovation, process, procedure.
MELISSA: What types of nutrition communications are you engaged in?
ANNETTE: Communications is one of my core strengths, and I love the opportunity to create stories in the realm of nutrition. I do quite a bit of speaking at conferences and corporate events. I also blog at my website and recently started blogging for the Huffington Post. While active on Twitter, I admit that social media is a development opportunity for me.
MELISSA: I love that you see social media as an opportunity, not a challenge! Please share one story that either taught you a lot about nutrition communications or you think would help other RDs.
ANNETTE: As you may know, Target started as a general merchandise company and then got into grocery retail. In light of this, many of the staff working on the grocery business didn’t have a background in food. This required those of us with extensive experience in the food industry to rethink our communication on important topics. When there was concern with products imported to the U.S. from China after the melamine in pet food and infant formula issues, I had to present to our senior leadership on the topic of country of origin labeling. While this would likely be a full day conversation at a food company, at Target, I could use a maximum of five slides to get the key points across.
MELISSA: Wow – so you really had to rely on your expert communication skills! That’s what I want for RDs – to utilize communication skills in a variety of settings to accomplish goals and achieve success! What is your number one tip for other RDs who want to improve their communication skills?
ANNETTE: I have a quote on my desk from William Yeats that says “Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.” I live by this quote and recommend it to anyone in the communications area. As dietitians, we need to go deep and critically evaluate information, but then bring it up to the right tone, level and message for the audience.
MELISSA: Indeed, we do. What is your advice or insight about RDs working with the food industry?
ANNETTE: As dietitians, we’re lifelong learners by nature and by requirement of our profession. Too often, we focus our learnings within our field. If you’re interested in working in the food industry or expanding your career in the food industry, my advice is to go outside our profession in your continuing education, the books you keep on your nightstand, and the people with whom you network.
MELISSA: Thank you for that advice. It’s always a good idea to expand our horizons from time to time! Nutrition profession aside, tell us a little bit about yourself.
ANNETTE: On the personal front, I live in the great state of Minnesota, with a household of males. I come from an Italian family with antics not far from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” I prefer talking on the phone to texting or Facebook. I do eat French fries and the only supplements I take are omega-3s and lutein.
Thank you to Annette for sharing her tips and advice. If you have questions or comments for her please post them below!
Like what you read here? Hear what other nutrition experts have to say about careers, communication and chasing their dreams. Visit the Directory of Dietitian Interviews and be inspired!
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I’m the Guilt-Free RD® – “Because food shouldn’t make you feel bad!™”. So, on my Food for Thought blog I’m exploring the secret ingredients needed to enjoy your food with health in mind. I’m also a “Dietitian Enthusiast” so I’m showcasing interviews with dietitians. My “How To” Series shares practical advice to help boost communication skills and gain more visibility, influence and success.
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