Founded in 1902, British American Tobacco UK & Ireland continues to go from strength to strength thanks to market-leading brands, a successful strategy, talented people and our Transforming Tobacco ambition. Fredrik Svensson, General Manager at British American Tobacco UK & Ireland spoke to Grocery Trader.
Please could you give us a little insight into BAT’s research and development. What Technologies are used in R&D and do other manufacturers use them?
BAT’s global research and development centre in Southampton has over 1,500 scientists and world-class facilities. It is the largest lab of its kind in the UK and is focused on the development of innovative smoke-free alternative nicotine products, particularly vaping products.
Our approach to innovation has undergone major changes in recent times, embracing new technologies, methodologies and consumer trends. We use a wide range of analytical techniques, specialised laboratory equipment and expertise to test our products to ensure high standards of product quality and consumer safety.
When we design a new vaping product, we make sure that all of the component parts are of the highest quality and, most importantly, work together. We have built a state-of-the-art battery and device safety lab where we can look at all the key hardware components and have a team of over 50 toxicologists who constantly test and develop existing and new e-liquid formulations.
How safe is vaping and what evidence do you have to back this up?
Consumer safety is at the heart of our approach to vaping and we have robust manufacturing and product quality standards in place to ensure that we only bring the most effective and safest vaping products to the market.
A number of major public health bodies in the UK, including Public Health England, have been clear in their guidance that vaping is around 95% less harmful than smoking. Other leading organisations such as Cancer Research UK and the British Lung Foundation have also pointed to vaping products as an effective quitting tool.
Now that the USA has banned fruit- and mint-flavoured products used in e-cigarettes and vaping products can you see the UK following this?
Flavours play an important role in helping smokers to switch from cigarettes to vaping and a growing body of evidence suggests they are effective at helping them give up for good.
We know that many smokers try tobacco vape flavours to start with, but then gradually transition to non-tobacco and fruit-based flavours, so they can move away from flavours which remind them of smoking – and ultimately, quit.
We mustn’t underestimate the role that flavours play for those who want to quit smoking and we would urge caution in making comparisons with decisions made in the USA.
How big is the Vype brand now in the UK? What brand share of total vaping does Vype have?
Vype is our flagship brand in the UK and the leader in overall value in the vaping category, including in the ‘closed system’ pod category with our ePen3 and ePod platforms1. Vype is going from strength to strength and we are extremely proud that the Vype ePod was voted “best e-cigarette” in the UK at this year’s Product of the Year Awards in January. This is the second consecutive year that Vype has won Product of the Year in the vaping category, following a win for ePen3 in 2019.
Where do the Vype SKUs rank in the vaping/next generation products sales league table?
We have always been at the forefront of innovation in the vaping category and we are delighted that this is reflected in Vype’s ranking as the number one closed system device in the UK, according to Nielson.
Where do you make the products you sell here? How does your product range for the UK compare to your range in other countries?
Our Vype ePen3 liquids are made in the UK, whilst our ePod liquids are made in the USA. Our devices and charging cables for both products are sourced internationally, mainly from Asia.
Globally, our consumer offering varies depending on the preferences of adult smokers and nicotine users in each country. We don’t believe there’s a one-size-fits-all nicotine product – and this is a key part of our strategy which differentiates us from our competitors.
Are you actively encouraging age verification for vape products in stores? If so, how?
Absolutely. Playing a proactive role in preventing youth access to nicotine products is at the top of our agenda and we made significant strides on this front last year through the launch of our Verify retailer education programme.
Verify provides face-to-face training and an online knowledge-hub to help educate retailers about responsible vapour marketing practices, advertising regulation and best practice for ID checks. So far, Verify has been rolled out to 11,000 shops across the UK.
We have also set up a whistleblowing hotline to allow people to report retailers suspected of selling vaping products to under 18s. And we believe that enforcement and penalties for breaking minimum ages laws must be tough enough to discourage anybody from selling to people underage.
1 According to Neilson data.