Back in the first iteration of this blog I posted an interview with The Hudson Group, the retailer behind Hudson and Hudson News in airports. If you’ve passed through O’Hare, Seatac or Miami International Airports (to name a few) you’ve likely seen their stores and newsstands. I highlight them in YourFitTrip 2.0 because they are still a reliable source for healthy airport snacks.
In the newer Hudson concept stores you’ll find fresh cut fruit and vegetables, salads, yogurts and other healthy options; and throughout Hudson and Hudson News you’ll find a variety of high protein, low sugar bars.
Read on and learn more about what they are doing to make your travel experience healthier.
One more thing, you can find the locations in the Airport Guide.
A big thank you to Mike Maslen, VP, Sales and Tom Kornacki, SVP, Food & Beverage for agreeing to be interviewed and a huge thank you to Laura, VP, Corporate Communications for coordinating and taking time to chat with me too!
Last time I stopped in a Hudson News store I got a liter of water, a veggie plate and a fruit cup. A healthy travelers dream. Tell us more about Hudson News’ transition to healthy options. What factors and influences go into your buying decisions? What have business travelers been asking for?
MIKE: Hudson’s motto is, “We are the traveler’s best friend.” While that sounds simplistic, deep down it means that we understand from 25+ years of experience that the way to succeed is to listen to what customers are saying and delivering what they want. That is behind every buying decision that we make.
From the snack side of the business we are constantly reviewing products that are gluten free, non GMO, whole grains, vegan and high in protein. We try to find the product that has many healthy attributes with great packaging. There are many good products out there but poor packaging will stop the consumer from purchasing the product.
What can we expect to see at the new Hudson concept that is not already found at Hudson News stores?
MIKE: In the beginning, Hudson News served customers by providing cold water and sodas in closed coolers. The new Hudson concept has provided us a larger footprint that has allowed our “Marketplace” section to increase and introduce open air coolers that provide us the opportunity to sell fruit, yogurts, fruit cups and salads, as well as additional beverages such as Simply and Odwalla juices, flavored and vitamin waters that our customers desire. Also, the increased footprint has allowed us to dedicate incremental space to healthier alternative snack products.
I read this article Professional Candy Buyer Article and have a few questions on how things have changed since 2010. Candy was 14% of sales – has that changed? What percent of sales is represented by fruit and veggie to-go plates, meal replacement bars and other healthy snacks?
MIKE: The confection category is still holding at approximately 14% of sales. However, there has been a shift from single serve to sharing bags. Nuts and mixes are the largest segment of our overall snack category with healthier nuts such as almonds and pistachios being the fastest growing sub-segment. Nutritional bars are the fourth largest segment within the snack category and the fastest growing category within the snack category for the past 3 years.
From the same article, are there any new conferences/trade shows you attend to find the latest in healthy alternatives and/or how has NACS and NCA changed to attract the healthier crowd?
MIKE: I have attended NACS and NCA for the past 15 years. The convenience store industry is just starting to dabble in the healthier categories. NCA introduced snacks to the show about 5 years ago and every year snacks and healthier alternatives have become an increasingly larger percentage of the show with many new vendors exhibiting. The newest show I will be attending is the Natural Foods Expo East which will be in Baltimore in September, so that will be another inroad for us into what the “healthier crowd” can expect from Hudson in coming years.
Any other collaborations/partnerships with healthy snack companies to promote healthy snacking?
MIKE: We work with many manufacturers to bring new products to life within our stores, whether it is product size, packaging or attributes. The smaller companies are more nimble and have the ability to react quickly in making a change to make the product work in our locations. Also, the General Managers in our locations are a key ingredient in making the product work at retail. Their merchandising and display ability truly bring these products to life and move them off the shelves.
You mentioned in another article that Hudson customers are primarily business travelers between 30-55, 60% of which are male; do any demographic groups stand-out as healthy food consumers?
MIKE: The business woman is a rapidly growing segment of our demographics and have truly made us look at our offering, expanding our assortment to reach that customer who is truly looking for healthier alternative products mentioned earlier. Also millenials of both sexes, who are very dedicated to fitness and just getting to that point in their careers when travel is a commonplace event, are very good customers for the healthier alternatives that Hudson carries.
UFood Grill sounds like a great concept, what can we expect to see from UFood Grill? Will it expand to other international airports? If so, where should we be on the lookout for the next one?
TOM: Yes, it sounded very good on paper and we had high hopes for working with them. However, the company ran into business problems, and will not be a factor going forward, either in concert with Hudson Group or on their own.
There is always a new protein/meal replacement/non-GMO/vegan/organic/gluten-free bar on the market. How can business travelers get in touch with Hudson News to request specific items?
MIKE: With our expansion into social media we try to read all the tweets and comments that are made about Hudson as well as products that are noticed or requested. It would be a luxury to carry every item our customers are looking for, but space limitations require that we select only the best of the best – the products that excite customers. Kind bars, Pop Chips and Sahale Snacks are some recent examples.
Speaking of heading to trade shows, as a business traveler, tell us about your own experiences. Do you have a favorite airport and why? Any trends in travel that you’re excited about? Not excited about? Any tips (anything, not necessarily related to health) you’ve picked up along the way?
TOM: Can never pick favorites among your children or your customers!
MIKE: Best tip for travelers (and frequent travelers know this already) is to BE PREPARED.
Be aware that delays and cancellations are a part of the everyday routine of travel. So experienced travelers load up on snacks for the trip, along with a beverage, something to read and whatever other “creature comforts” – a travel pillow, headache remedy, or ear buds – they want and need to make travel less stressful. Many items – blankets, meals, magazines – that the airlines used to supply to travelers are no longer available, so travelers have learned to provide for themselves. A grab and go meal is a much better alternative than counting on the airline to sell you a meal, and come to find out they have run out of food halfway through the aircraft. So you go hungry for the duration of the flight. It has happened to all of us. And if it ever has, you learn to BE PREPARED. Can’t stress that enough.