For decades Hudson News Distributors has been one of the leaders in the magazine and book direct store distribution network, servicing more than 15,000 retail stores in the Northeast U.S. But this year, the company has decided to “wet” its palate, adding a CPG beverage leg that counts LaCroix, Nestle Waters, and now Hint in its growing portfolio.
The company — not to be confused with the stores of the same name, which were sold off in 2008 — announced its third beverage partnership with Hint Fruit Infused Water in a press release on Tuesday, and detailed plans to tap into its “experience merchandising secondary display locations,” such as checkout counters, to build the brand.
Speaking to BevNET, Hudson News Distributors’ Chief Revenue Officer Tom Dowdy said the move into beverage began in January when the company entered a partnership with National Beverage Corp. to distribute La Croix Sparkling Water. Shortly after, Nestle Waters came on board with a deal that includes associated Nestle brands such as San Pellegrino, Perrier, and Nestea, in addition to its bottled waters. According to Dowdy, the focus has been on bottled, sparkling, and enhanced waters due to the rapid growth in the category. as consumers move away from sugar, but future portfolio additions could include soda and other categories.
In addition to beverages, Hudson News has also added snacks in the form of a partnership with Utz.
The reason for the shift comes from the shifting landscape in publishing. As consumers get more news and information from social media, print magazines have suffered, leading to a decline in business, Dowdy said. Books have suffered a significant hit due to e-readers, although sales have begun to swing back. However, it still leaves Hudson News with extra space in its 14 warehouses and 400 delivery trucks.
“What we have is excess capacity within our infrastructure,” Dowdy said. “So we started an effort a couple of years ago to go out and fill that space with other brands in other categories that lend themselves to direct store delivery.”
Beverage, he said, was “a natural” category to adopt due to a similar grab-and-go DSD business model. Hudson News, Dowdy said, made a concentrated effort to reach out to beverage companies, leading to its first partnership with National Beverage. The company has previously distributed energy shot brands.
For beverage companies, partnering with Hudson News could also comprise a good chance to expand a retail footprint outside of traditional areas covered by beverage distributors. In addition to serving major outlets, including Target, K-Mart, 7-Eleven, Rite Aid, BJ’s, Stop & Shop, CVS, and Walmart, the distributor also covers roughly 2,400 independent stores. Based in New Jersey, it services as far south as Washington, D.C.
Hudson News previously owned a chain of self-titled retail stores, commonly found in airports throughout the Northeast. However, the chain was sold to Swiss company Duffry in 2008 and many of the stores have exclusive distribution partnerships with The Coca-Cola Company, Dowdy said. Hudson News Distributors, however, does service numerous airport retailers.
“Hint approached us as a solution to reach a larger footprint than what exists currently in the beverage distributor universe,” Dowdy said. “A lot of beverage distributors are regionally located within specific cities or counties, and then the challenge is that to cover a whole chain like a Walmart or a Hannafords could take literally hundreds of distributors. That is quickly becoming an onerous process.”
There are no immediate plans for Hudson News to add cold chain distribution, Dowdy said. In the meantime, he said, the company hopes to use its beverage offerings to bring on more retailers.