Chris Street Head of Trade Marketing, Blu UK

Blu UK, part of Imperial Brands, are constantly looking at ways to strengthen their portfolio of vaping devices and liquids and deliver innovative products responding to rising trends. This is the inspiration behind Blu’s latest launch, a new, improved Golden Tobacco flavour complementing the existing myblu range. Chris Street, Head of Trade Marketing at Blu UK, speaks to Grocery Trader.

How would you sum up the blu proposition?

For the last decade, blu has pioneered the production and development of next-generation vaping products. Vaping continues to gain traction as consumers become more familiar with the category and the body of research relating to e-vapour (EVP) products grows. Ultimately, positive vaping regulation based on rigorous, peerreviewed research will ensure consumers have access to high quality products and trustworthy information, helping them transition to vaping.

What’s the split in sales between supermarkets and wholesalers?

Grocery retail accounts for the largest share of retail sales at 69%, with Independents including Wholesale accounting for 24%, followed by specialist vape stores at 7%1. We are seeing further sales growth within the Vape channel and with research showing 70% of vaping sales stem from online or vape shops2, there is substantial scope for other vape stockists to reap their share of sales.

How do you work with supermarkets and other multiple retailers?

We are increasingly working in close collaboration with supermarkets to pursue category enhancing retail display solutions which have been designed specifically for the needs of the channel. By partnering with an established vaping brand like blu, retailers can provide a full portfolio of vape technology through innovative display solutions that will meet the needs of discerning consumers.

What’s in your UK myblu product range? Which are your biggest sellers?

Our signature myblu device launched in spring 2018. Thanks to its exceptional performance and vaping experience, coupled with its sleek, easy-to-use podmod design, myblu has grown in distribution and availability to become the UK’s No.1 closed kit device3. Alongside myblu, we launched our Intense Liquidpods featuring Nicotine Salts (nicsalts). Nicsalts result in nicotine being absorbed into the body faster than normal e-liquids, more closely replicating the experience of smoking a traditional cigarette. We also have the largest range of liquid flavours from tobacco to menthol and fruity flavours in a variety of nicotine strengths, including nicsalts like myblu Intense. Our liquids are tested in Nerudia, our qualitycontrolled lab, and offer the most enjoyable, full bodied vape possible.

What are the demographics for people who vape?

In theory, the demographic of vaping should broadly follow that of smokers, which is stereotypically male-dominated. However, in our experience, the split is actually far more equal, with 54% of males transitioning from smoking to vaping versus 46% of females4. There are 3.2m vapers in the UK, yet 37% of smokers haven’t tried vaping5. You recently brought out a new, improved Golden Tobacco flavour to complement the existing myblu range.

What proportion of vape liquid sales are tobacco-related flavours?

Authentic tobacco flavours like Golden Tobacco are key for adult smokers looking to switch. However, research also shows fruit-based flavours are increasingly preferred6 and three of the top five blu e-liquid flavours are fruitbased7. 54% of vape sales are liquids so, while offering the right range of devices is key, stocking a strong portfolio of eliquids is just as important, if not more so.

Is more myBlu NPD on the way?

We’re always looking at ways to strengthen our portfolio using the latest vaping technology, by focusing on innovation driven by consumer insights.

How can supermarkets maximise sales of your products?

While research shows 70% of vaping sales stem from online or vape shops8, there is substantial scope for retailers to reap their share of vape-related sales.

The unique relationship enjoyed between retailers, staff and their shoppers, presents a huge opportunity for the grocery channel.

In many instances, consumers trust and rely on advice regarding what products to buy, and this presents a potential competitive advantage, especially when it comes to the vape category. Unlike online and vape stores, traditional retailers usually offer both tobacco and vaping so retailers can play a key role in terms of category advocacy, helping their adult smokers switch to something better. Training is key to success in this regard and investing in staff education, retailers can provide an exceptional level of service to customers that will encourage them to return to the store again and again.

What above the line support are you giving your products?

We have exciting plans for myblu. Watch this space!

Where do you see the blu brand going from here?

As the vaping market matures, championing innovation and product quality is essential for brands like blu to maintain relevance with consumers. Research has found that many vapers are looking to improve their vaping experience and blu is at the forefront.