HHS Early Career Achievement Award recipient finds ingredients for success in brand management career

Written By: Rebecca Hoffa, rhoffa@purdue.edu

Johanna Rohler headshot

Johanna Rohler(Photo provided)

Johanna Rohler has always been fascinated by both the art and science of nutrition, but when she sustained a jaw injury her senior year of high school and couldn’t chew anything, she discovered a career path awaiting her. A 2016 graduate of Purdue University’s College of Health and Human Sciences (HHS), Rohler found a supportive, welcoming family culture that shared her love for healthy food in HHS’ Department of Nutrition Science.

“(My injury) made me even more attuned to nutrition and helping people go through a variety of different challenges in that area because I was not able to chew anything for a while, and it affected my life in so many ways,” Rohler recalled. “I had to eat such a modified diet.”

Now the senior brand manager of Bertolli Olive Oil at Deoleo, Rohler is being recognized with the 2023 HHS Early Career Achievement Award for the strides she has made connecting her passion for nutrition with her marketing prowess.

“Purdue has invested a lot in me, whether it’s been relationships with faculty over the years or scholarships, all kinds of things,” Rohler said. “This (award) tells me that they think it’s been a well-placed investment.”

Although Rohler started her career as a registered dietitian in a hospital, she later decided to connect her nutrition knowledge with a Master of Business Administration degree from Indiana University. By being exposed to the different specialties within the business world, she discovered her love for brand management within the food industry.

As senior brand manager of Bertolli Olive Oil, Rohler manages all aspects of the brand, including building the innovation pipeline, developing the products consumers need that don’t exist yet, and creating marketing campaigns that tell the brand’s story to build awareness and drive equity with consumers.

“One of the things that I love about my career and what I get to do is being right at the forefront of consumer needs and then being able to meet those needs in a way that improves their lives — and in some cases, their health too,” Rohler said.

Previously, Rohler has worked in marketing and brand management on iconic brands such as Simply Orange Juice, Minute Maid and Doritos. One of the projects Rohler worked on while at Coca-Cola recently came to fruition with the launch of Simply Mixology, a healthy mocktail mixer drink that can be consumed with or without alcohol.

“I think what’s really cool about that is it meets consumers where they are. The sober-curious trend is such a great thing from a health perspective,” Rohler said. “Mixers can have so much junk in them, so to create a product that is made from the purest ingredients to be consumed either by itself or as a mixer is a huge value-add for consumers.”

In recent years, Rohler has also begun freelancing as a registered dietitian and seeing patients via telehealth, passionate to improve both the accessibility and affordability of nutrition care for those who need it most. Her freelance work has included everything from individual weight management counseling to a contract with the Colorado Health Network for a year-long intervention study with low-income, at-risk, HIV-positive populations.

“I think understanding both sides, both from the nutritional lens but then also from the marketing lens, really has been a huge asset and helped me see things in a unique way,” Rohler said. “I’m able to operate in the crosshairs of understanding what consumers both need and want and then having the business acumen to be able to do something about it.”

During her time as a student at Purdue, Rohler worked in the Department of Nutrition Science’s Metabolic Kitchen, took up salsa dancing, frequented various athletics events and developed a huge passion for thrift shopping. One of the most influential moments in her nutrition and dietetics major was taking NUTR 40000 (Executive in the Classroom), where she was able to learn the many different possibilities across the food industry from real-life executives.

“As a dietitian, you can meet people where they are and can give them the tools they need to enjoy this really important part of life — because food is not just nourishment; it’s also social connection — and then also teach them how to enjoy it in a way that helps them feel their best and enjoy the best possible quality of life,” Rohler said.

Rohler noted maintaining a teachable and humble spirit, staying curious about the world, and being receptive to growth have been important in shaping her professional journey.

“Those are the ingredients that have accelerated success in my career so far and things I keep at the forefront to fuel my career into the future as well,” Rohler said.