Amenities Magazine put Harry Zalk, CCO of Matrix, In The Spotlight.

As an international product development agency, you work with a number of leading beauty brands. How does this give you a greater insight into current market trends? 

We have a trend and insight team whose whole remit is to predict and analyse how the market will evolve and what consumers will want in the short and long term. This is essential when working with our retail partners as the success of our brands and products are measured in retail sales. If our products don’t sell, we don’t win any further business. We find that this attention to detail and consumer insight is 100% transferrable to our airline customers. 

Do you consider it is possible to produce truly sustainable/ green onboard amenities? 

A very interesting question – everyone’s definition of truly sustainable is different. I would argue that while airlines continue to give away single-use items, that will always be to the detriment of the environment. A cheap bamboo toothbrush is better than a cheap plastic toothbrush but it’s not legitimately green if millions of them still end up in a landfill. We are continuously exploring ways in which we can truly address the issues of sustainability in onboard products. 

As a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation do you feel that airlines should be transitioning to a Circular Economy as the most responsible approach? 

We believe this is only a small part of a much bigger problem. Of course, all businesses should be moving to a circular economy where possible, but we believe that sustainability and impact need to be considered in all aspects of business decision making. Everything from the reduction or repurposing of plastic, to ensuring that all workers making our products are being treated with respect and rewarded fairly. Business can be the catalyst for change on a global scale. At Matrix, we don’t take that responsibility lightly. 

For Matrix, as a company, what accomplishment, development or project are you most proud of? 

Generally, what makes us proud is the knowledge that our products and company are positively impacting the lives of people. Whether we are hosting a webinar with factories on positive worker retention, launching a new wellness range for retail, or enhancing the product quality received in business class so the honeymoon couple, who have splurged to experience it, come back again and again! That’s what gets us all out of bed on a cold winter’s day, impacting everyone across all our business in different and positive ways. 

Cathay Pacific Kit
Cathay Pacific First Class Kits in partnership with Bamford

In working with brand partnerships, what do you foresee as your biggest challenges when it comes to maintaining the individual integrity and value of both the brand and airline, whilst aligning them cohesively together in the final offering? 

The importance of the authenticity of the partnership has never been more important. The passenger needs to understand why this brand partnership is aligned to the values of the airline and is a credible solution to an onboard desire or need. If they feel it’s a ‘brand badging’ exercise or inauthentic partner, they will ultimately see through the partnership. The First and Business Class customer is a very savvy consumer who has high expectations.

Are Airlines doing enough to keep up with passenger needs and demands? 

The focus on sleep and wellness has been a major positive shift toward passenger wellbeing but there is plenty more work to do in Economy and Premium Economy where the majority of passengers are flying. Small but meaningful investments in the passenger experience in these cabins could have a huge impact on peoples flying experience and ultimately would drive business growth.

When did Matrix first start working with the airline industry and what attracted you into the amenity sector? 

We were tempted into the space around 10 years ago by the founders of REN skincare who our founder knew well. They needed an amenity manufacturer and knew we had 15 years of experience producing retail beauty products in Asia. 

What is the most significant change you have seen in onboard amenities in the past decade? 

The market has become more competitive and the quality of the onboard product has been elevated. At the same time, price pressures have increased and this makes creating impactful solutions for passengers even more challenging. There is also a further focus on sleep and wellbeing within our space which is great for the passenger experience. 

How do you see the market changing in the next few years and what innovations do you predict will be a game-changer? 

The million-dollar question! I couldn’t possibly share all of our secrets. Seriously though; with people predicted to fly more and more in the coming years, sleep and wellbeing need to remain top of the agenda for airlines. Also, with the advancement of ultra-long-haul flights we need to closely monitor and look after passengers embarking on flights of 15 hours or more. 

What are your views on the way airlines go out for tender and what changes to this process if any would you like to see? 

I am not enamoured with the tendering process that airlines so often run. Repetitive questions, “tick box” exercises and little room for exploration on a collaborative basis can waste time and resources and can be detrimental to the overall product outcome of the tender. Our greatest successes have been when we’ve worked collaboratively with an airline, spending quality time with teams who understand what the product needs to accomplish and can make decisions. A long-term partnership mentality, to achieve the best outcome aligned to a shared vision, is where we have seen the best results in a shorter timeline. 

I’d be keen for airlines to adopt a more efficient policy of tendering out to the industry to select their preferred product development partner/agency and once selected, work collaboratively over a 3-6 month project to truly deliver exceptional ideas and solutions on the project. This would ensure that agencies tendering at the beginning were spending less time and resource on what they “think” the airline wants, a more measured approach would reduce the huge number of wasted samples that are often generated by the current tender process and ultimately deliver more thoughtful and cohesive product ranges. 

THE PERSONAL TOUCH

Where is your favourite place to go on vacation?  Miami! The blend of American and Latino is such fun and I love the art deco architecture. 

What is your favourite city? London – every time I’ve had the itch to move away, I end up realizing how much I love it here. 

What is your amenity must-have when travelling? Slippers. I take my own if necessary. 

Your favourite holiday read? Anything by Robert Harris 

Your favourite onboard tipple? I’m a man of simple tastes: give me a good session IPA or a glass of champagne