The vaping category in the UK continues to grow strongly as retailers provide adult smokers with more alternatives to combustible cigarettes.

E-cigarettes is the largest sector in the smoking alternatives category and recent data from industry analysts IRI shows double-digit growth in e-cigarette sales in the twelve weeks after the removal of menthol cigarettes from stores, compared to the 12 weeks prior.

Since May 20 this year, it has been illegal for manufacturers to produce, and retailers to sell, menthol flavoured cigarettes as part of the revised European Tobacco Products Directive.

In the 12 weeks post the ban, IRI figures show the vaping category in tracked channels grew by 12.6%, with sales of menthol products up 44.6%

Juul Labs believes smokers should first and foremost quit– those who have not successfully quit should completely switch to potentially less harmful alternative nicotine products. John Patterson, sales director of Juul Labs UK, welcomed the continued growth in the category.

“Juul Labs’ mission is to transition the world’s billion adult smokers away from combustible cigarettes, eliminate their use, and combat underage usage of our products,” Patterson said. “We believe that vapour products can offer adult smokers an alternative to combustible cigarettes and, in so doing, reduce the harm associated with tobacco.

“The vaping category itself has experienced solid growth in the past few months. If we look at total sales across closed and open systems in the 12 weeks pre and post the removal of menthol cigarettes, menthol and mint products contributed to almost 60% of all growth in the category, with menthol flavours alone responsible for 36% of all growth.”

Patterson points to the company’s Glacier Mint and Menthol JUULpods as key drivers and must-stock products for retailers: “With vaping products, adult smokers have a choice of flavours and a range of alternative options that may help them transition away from combustible cigarettes.

“Since May, Glacier Mint JUULpods have remained the number one refill kit in the closed pod sector in the UK and Menthol JUULpods have performed strongly. Retailers who stock the JUUL range could therefore grow their category sales and offer adult smokers a credible alternative to cigarettes, which continue to be the number one cause of preventable death in the UK.”

As part of Juul Labs’ commitment to responsible retailing, the company is continuing to invest in its ‘Challenge 25’ age verification policy, providing retailer training, alongside mystery shopping audits to limit appeal to underage individuals.

Duncan Cunningham, UK Corporate Affairs Director at Imperial Tobacco & blu, comments: “The vape category is currently worth around £1bn in the UK, with around 30% of vaping sales taking place in traditional retail stores (20% online, 50% specialist stores (ECigIntelligence).”

Whilst it is still too soon to know what the full impact of the pandemic will be, there are some trends emerging that could be shaping convenience store sales in the vaping category.

“Shoppers are often drawn to products displayed at eye-line so to help attract their attention, we’d recommend placing devices at this level, and then the supporting brand e-liquids or accessories on the shelves above and below,” adds Cunningham. “Low margin products, or cheaper brands, should be placed on the lower shelf, with higher margin products above the devices. Also, grouping the respective brands together in a well-organised display will help to create further shelf-appeal for products, as well as making it easier for staff to locate products for quick service and maintain stock levels.”

Many specialist vape stores have invested significantly in their store interiors to ensure they offer maximum consumer appeal.

While these stores include an extensive range of products, they are often carefully displayed to promote a minimalist look, featuring sleek arrangements of products.

These attractive interiors and displays help draw consumers in from the high street and drive footfall into the stores.

Therefore, any retailers looking to compete and truly position themselves as a destination store for vapers should consider investing in their displays and range to offer a similar shopping experience for their customers. Imperial Tobacco/blu has a range of different options that can be tailored to the needs of individual retailers, including everything from counter display units, to fully installed gantry furniture. Any retailers interested in finding out more should speak to their dedicated sales representative.

Whilst open systems have traditionally dominated the vaping category (currently making up 81% of the market), the introduction of pod-mod devices in recent years has seen closed systems, such as myblu, continue to trend upwards, regaining its share of the category back towards 20% (ECigIntelligence).

Over the past year within traditional retail, nicotine salts (nicsalts) have grown to become the preferred liquid for pods, ITUK estimates. Nicsalts result in nicotine being absorbed into the body faster than normal e-liquids. This rapid absorption of nicotine through nicsalts allows products like myblu Intense to more closely replicate the experience of smoking a traditional cigarette. This appeals to adult smokers looking to switch for the first time, or those who have tried vaping in the past and haven’t been completely convinced.

The best-selling variant in the myblu range is the Menthol Intense Liquidpod. The myblu Menthol Intense liquidpods are available to buy at £5.99 RRP for a pack of two.

“Retailers should therefore consider stocking a broad range of flavours and strengths,” suggests Cunningham. “Market insights have shown that adult smokers need to experience different flavours before moving from tobacco to vaping. While fresh flavours such as menthol perform best, there is a growing trend for consumers looking to purchase fruity flavours, which is why the myblu range also includes menthol-based flavours that combine fruity elements.”

Nick Geens, Head of Logic and Reduced Risk Products at JTI, comments: “Despite everything that’s happened this year, with the Characterising Flavour Ban now in effect and the COVID-19 pandemic, shoppers are still prioritising great value products. Vaping continues to grow, and 100% tobacco-free nicotine pouches, such as our Nordic Spirit nicotine pouch, have emerged as a serious player.”

There have, though, been changes in the type of products sought after by consumers.

With menthol and capsule cigarettes now banned, some shoppers are turning to alternatives like menthol e-liquids (the Logic range), and mint-flavoured nicotine pouches (Nordic Spirit).

“Retailers should continue to monitor the trends that develop post-ban and stock products that meet new customer needs,” suggests Geens. “Nicotine salts in particular have been a big trend this year as existing adult vapers look for a smoother and more intense flavour delivery and we predict this will remain popular in 2021.”

One trend that has developed over the past twelve months – and which will continue to grow in popularity throughout next year – is the rise of closed tank devices, or pod mods, which is currently the fastest growing vaping segment in the UK and now the biggest segment (value) in traditional retail, with 43.9% share of segment and overtaking open tank in August 2020 (IRI). Those who are new to the category may want to experiment with flavours and strengths to find the right fit, and pod devices offer an ideal starting point.

Vapers are becoming more experimental with their vaping choices, resulting in an influx of new flavours and strengths in the market. The UK’s most popular flavours are fruit (31%), followed by tobacco (20%) and then menthol (21%) according to Kantar, so retailers should focus their vaping ranges around these trends to meet customer demands.

For example, e-liquid pods for Logic Compact are available in a range of flavours and strengths, helping retailers provide a more personalised vaping experience for their customers. Flavours include Tobacco, Menthol, Berry Mint, Cherry and Strawberry to cater to every taste.

“One product which has performed well is our Logic Compact device,” adds Geens. “The premium pod device offers a convenient and modern alternative to traditional vaping products, allowing retailers to capitalise on the popularity of pod vaping devices. We are delighted with how well this product has been received and will continue to innovate in the flavours compatible with this device to help boost sales.”

Nicotine salts offer a smoother, more intense flavour delivery, whilst presenting a significant profit opportunity for retailers whose customers seek a more enriched vaping experience.

This year JTI launched Logic Compact Intense flavour pods into the grocery channel, compatible with the Logic Compact device. With an RRP of £5.99 and available in 18mg, vapers can choose from; Amber Tobacco, Peppermint, Berry Ripple, Intense Spearmint, Banoffee and Chai Latte, alongside the newest menthol flavours of Berry Mint and Polar Menthol.

JTI has recently unveiled a new design and flavour, as well as price mark packs (PMP) for Nordic Spirit – the UK’s leading tobacco-free nicotine pouch brand, with an 90.5% market share (IRI). Already available in Mint and Bergamot Wildberry, the range was extended with a 12mg Extra Strong Mint variant to help cater for every preference. JTI also introduced an Elderflower variant in a regular 6mg and strong 9mg strength.

“With an RRP of £6.50 for 20 pouches, the new PMP format will help drive sales,” says Geens. “This rapidly evolving category, already worth £380,410 a month (IRI) presents retailers with a huge profit opportunity, and we urge them to incorporate Nordic Spirit into their offering as the category continues to flourish.”

John Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer at Vape Dinner Lady, comments: “With the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we have seen increasing numbers of cigarette smokers who are turning to the Dinner Lady disposable vape pens, as they reconsider their lifestyle choices. More smokers are looking to improve their lung health by quitting cigarettes, and they’re choosing vaping and e-cigarettes to help them do that – as we know Public Health England states vaping to be 95 per cent less harmful than cigarette smoking. Dinner Lady’s disposable vape pen is an ideal entry level product for someone looking to quit smoking.”

This year has seen Vape Dinner Lady’s disposable e-cigarettes listed by ASDA in five flavours, and its short fills and e-cigs are available through Argos.

Vape Dinner Lady’s customised marketing solutions range from counter-top units (CTUs) to gantry displays, small footprint free-standing display units (FSDUs) which can hold a broad range of products, or even full Dinner Lady branded vape walls.

“It all starts with the consumer; the retailer needs to stock a broad range of validated products which consumers know and love,” adds Taylor.

The knowledgeable sales team at Vape Dinner Lady will support retailers in ensuring they have the right range for their customers. Once that’s established, they will work with the in-house design team to ensure the range looks good in store, and that it will drive sales.

“This year has definitely seen a shift to greater investment in online, both breadth of stock and ensuring sufficient stock is in place to meet the consumer’s demands,” comments Taylor. “When vape stores shut in March, online sales went through the roof. The most successful retailers were those who have a compelling, effective online channel, giving consumers the service they want in these challenging times. By ensuring a strong, effective online offering, alongside in-store stock, you have continuity for customers and they’ll keep coming back.”

From insight Vape Dinner Lady has done throughout the pandemic, consumers are concerned about smoking making them more susceptible to Covid-19.

“People have spoken about that a lot, and how they’re turning to vaping as a less harmful alternative,” adds Taylor. “Alongside this, retailers need to be able to educate customers about the product range, so that they can support them through their vaping journey, and they need a wide range of stock to back that up. If retailers educate themselves and their staff to be able to support the consumer, they will create consumer loyalty which will pay dividends in time.”

Paola Midence, Swedish Match Brand and Trade Manager Europe, comments: “Now you can find ZYN nicotine pouches in Sainsbury’s stores. Consumers can choose from a variety of refreshing flavours and strengths.”

Swedish Match is a tobacco company whose vision is a world without cigarettes. Therefore, cigarettes are absent from the product portfolio. Instead, consumers are provided with smoke free alternatives and new innovative products, including ZYN nicotine pouches – now launching in 1298 Sainsbury’s stores.

ZYN is a modern way to enjoy nicotine, free of smoke and free from tobacco. The white and small ZYN pouch is very discreet and fits perfectly under the lip. Simply place a pouch under your upper lip to experience refreshing flavour and the tingling sensation of nicotine.

“This enables you to have your nicotine wherever, whenever: at the pub with friends, during a business meeting or at home. Always stay present in the everyday moments. Now you can,” says Midence.

Sainsbury’s customers will have the choice of three different flavours, available in different strengths (with a choice between 3 mg and 6 mg nicotine per pouch).

ZYN Cool Mint, for the refreshing taste of menthol, offers a choice between strength 2 or 4.

ZYN Citrus, tasting of fresh and juicy citrus fruits, is available in strength 2.

ZYN Espressino, for consumers who prefer their nicotine buzz alongside the rich flavours of freshly roasted coffee, is available in strength 2.

ZYN nicotine pouches is a smoke free alternative for adult nicotine users. ZYN can be found in a range of Sainsbury’s stores, including Vape Bay in grocery, convenience stores and forecourts.

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