The vaping category is currently worth £186 million in supermarkets, with growth of 18% year-on-year (IRI).

Heated tobacco is also set to grow as awareness of alternative products increases.

The category is worth nearly £1 million a week in traditional retail (IRI) and JTI estimates there will be nearly one million heated tobacco users nationwide by 2025.

Gemma Bateson, Reduced Risk Products Director at JTI UK tells Grocery Trader what retailers need to do to maximise vape sales and how JTI is helping retailers improve their staff training around the vaping category.

Can you talk us through your brand portfolio?

As Head of Reduced Risk Products at JTI, my portfolio covers both our popular Logic vaping brand and more recently our Heated Tobacco product, Ploom. It’s been a successful year for Logic in particular, with the brand now worth more than £21 million in supermarketsi and growing 16% year-on-yearii.

A big part of my role focuses on the Heated Tobacco market and growing this part of the JTI business. There’s already high demand for new Heated Tobacco products and, as we look ahead, Ploom is set to play a big role in our plans. We have our sights set high and the ambition is to see Ploom become the number one Heated Tobacco device in the UK.

What is the value of the vaping and heated tobacco market?

The vaping market has continued to go from strength to strength. In fact, the category is currently worth £186 million in supermarketsiii, with growth of 18% year-on-yeariv, making it an important category for retailers, whether they’re starting out or looking to grow their range.

Demand for Heated Tobacco is also expected to rise as more existing adult smokers and vapers find out about the alternatives available to them. Today, the category is worth nearly £1 million a week in traditional retailv and by 2025, it is predicted that there will be nearly one million Heated Tobacco users nationwidevi. That’s why at the end of 2020, we launched our premium ‘challenger’ brand into the market, Ploom, to help retailers profit from this growing category.

How is JTI helping retailers keep up with current vaping trends?

We make it our responsibility to keep our ear close to the ground and ensure that we continue to offer products that meet the current demand from customers. Closed tank devices are the fastest growing vaping segment in the UKvii, and we know that vapers are looking for convenient and easy-to-use devices that they can experiment with in terms of flavours and strengths to find the right fit. That’s why Logic Compact is a must stock device to help retailers capitalise on this exciting revenue opportunity.

We also know that customers are looking for a more enhanced vaping experience as they become more experimental – and our Logic Intense nicotine salt e-liquid range offers just that. With the most popular flavours being fruit (27%), menthol (21%) and tobacco (16%)viii, we have made sure that these are covered with over 13 options to choose from.

The Characterising Flavour Ban has, of course, also provided a big opportunity for the vaping market over the past year. With more customers looking for menthol alternatives, we’ve seen some existing adult smokers making the switch to vaping for that menthol flavour they are used to. Again, we made sure that our popular ranges, like Logic Compact Intense, now include more menthol flavours, allowing retailers to stock products that meet new customer needs.

How have consumers reacted to the current Coronavirus crisis and what effect has this had on the industry?

The pandemic affected the way we all did our weekly shop – from ordering essentials online through to changing the way tobacco products were purchased. As vape stores fell into the category of ‘non-essential’ shops, they were forced to shut in early 2020, meaning adult vapers had to look elsewhere to stock up on their vaping e-liquids and devices – in turn, visiting trusted local shops and supermarkets instead.

More sales, therefore, were made through local supermarkets and stores at this time, and even when vape stores were allowed to re-open on June 15th 2020, sales of e-cigarettes in traditional retail remained 7%ix higher than pre-pandemic levels. And, in November last year, sales boosted again, increasing by 8% in traditional retailx – showing the change in behaviour from customers.

Fast forward to today, and we’re still seeing that existing adult smokers and vapers are now aware of the wide range of vaping products available and the ease of picking them up in traditional retail. If retailers continue to provide the choice, and reinforce their position as being a local, friendly, and knowledgeable outlet, we expect these channels to continue retaining these new customers.

What do retailers need to do to maximize vape sales?

Broadening retailer and staff knowledge of the vaping category has become even more important – especially for these new customers that would have visited vape stores for bespoke and specialised advice before the pandemic. To build up knowledge and offer a good level of customer service, retailers should use all of the platforms available to them – including JTI’s trade retailer website, JTI Advance. They can also speak to their JTI representative to get more information around key category insights and product developments.

Additionally, we would recommend that retailers ensure they stock a full, consolidated range and maintain a good availability of products, so they can provide a successful vaping offering to their customers. It is also important to recognise which devices and liquids are proving particularly popular with vapers so that retailers can meet this demand and vapers can get their preferred product without having to shop around.

And finally, displays are very important for those either starting their vaping range, or even growing it. As a general rule, by having a clear and tidy display, customers will find it easier to find their preferred product – including within countertop display units. For retailers looking to expand their range, there’s now a larger category solution available to them, which includes backlighting where vaping, next-gen and tobacco products can be stored in the same gantry. The solution incorporates the entire category, whilst also allowing for changes in configuration. They are available in a variety of widths including 1, 1.2, 1.5 and 2m; retailers will be supplied with a gantry providing they meet certain store criteria. Those interested should speak to their JTI representative about our new category management solutions.

How is JTI helping retailers improve their staff training around the vaping category?

Since March 2020, despite not being able to go in store, we’ve stepped up our virtual communication to continue to offer support to retailers during the pandemic. We’ve also been directing retailers to use JTI Advance, which offers everything they need to help staff learn and profit from the category – from training guides through to information on the latest products and how to communicate these to customers.

We know that some retailers find it easier with face to face meetings, and as a result of updated national guidelines and the improving COVID-19 situation across the UK, from March 15th, our salesforce resumed field activities under strict guidelines, which means we have been able to physically visit stores and offer advice.

We’re committed to providing support to all trade partners via our dedicated salesforce and we would encourage any account who requires assistance to either contact their JTI representative by phone, visit our trade website JTI Advance or call the Customer Care Line on 0800 163503.



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