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As more consumers seek out alternative nicotine solutions, the vape market is continually expanding with the number of vapers in the UK increasing from 3.7m in 2021 to 4.3m in 2022 (ECigIntelligence).

In the UK alone, the category is now worth around £1.2bn and is expected to reach £1.4bn in the next three years (ECigIntelligence).

Tom Gully, Head of Consumer Marketing UK & Ireland at Imperial Tobacco, comments: “With around 35% of current vape volume sales already taking place in the traditional retail channel (ECigIntelligence), it’s clear that there will be continued demand from consumers for vaping products throughout 2023 and beyond. To tap into this rising trend, retailers need to ensure they are dedicating sufficient space in store for vaping products and stocking the right range for their customer base.”

There is currently significant growth in the disposables category. Now worth 83% of all vape sales (ITUK), the disposables market saw a remarkable increase from £141m in 2021 to £973m in 2022 (ITUK). In order to cater for this growing demand, Imperial announced its entrance into the expanding disposables market with its blu bar disposable vape range.

However, recent data also shows that both closed pod systems and basic open systems remain popular choices for vapers, accounting for 17% of the UK vaping market (ITUK).

“In order to tap into this trend, we’d recommend that retailers stock a range of leading pod systems, including our blu 2.0 device,” adds Gully. “Retailers should ensure they review their range regularly and prioritise stocking the brands that cater to these fast-moving trends in order to remain current and maximise sales. With this in mind, we’d recommend stocking a range of leading disposable products like blu bar, and pod-mods such as blu 2.0, to take advantage of the growing demand.”

When it comes to flavours, mint remains the second most popular flavour profile in pod systems, however there is some growth in popularity of fruity flavours profiles such as Strawberry and Blueberry. The latter flavours are mirrored in the disposable sector, where fruity flavours dominate the sales. In fact, recent data shows that Blueberry is now the top-selling disposable vape flavour (ITUK). However, we’re also seeing Berry increasing in popularity, with the flavour growing rapidly by 60% month-on-month (ITUK).

To help retailers take advantage of the sales opportunities in the growing disposables category, Imperial Tobacco has launched three new flavours to its popular blu bar disposable vape range.

Available to buy now at the same RRP of £5.99, the new additions joining the blu bar line up include Tropical Mix, Apple Ice and Mint Ice, taking the total flavour range up to 13 variants. Collectively, these flavour characteristics, including apple, pineapple, mint and mango, accounted for 10.75% of all vaping sales over the last six months, with their share contribution almost doubling against the same period a year ago.

“The vape category is continually evolving. Retailers therefore need to ensure they are staying on top of the current trends in next generation nicotine products so that they can revise their range to offer any products proving popular with customers. Making room for a small selection of new products, like our blu bar disposable vapes, will also allow retailers to trial them first before they invest in adding these as a permanent part of their range,” says Gully .

“Retailers should also regularly review their main range to ensure it caters for their customers’ needs. For example, are there any particular vape flavours or devices that customers are buying frequently that would be worth investing in more stock or making them more visible in store? Having access to these types of insights, combined with customer feedback, will enable retailers to amend the range available on a frequent basis to ensure their range is still fit for purpose.”

Richard Cook, Director of National Accounts, Juul Labs UK, comments: “Smoking alternatives now make up 12.4 percent of the total nicotine category (including factory made cigarettes and RYO tobacco) with e-cigarettes, heated tobacco and oral nicotine the only nicotine categories to show growth in the past year. E-cigarettes have added £71.7m to its category value in tracked channels while heated tobacco and nicotine pouches have risen by £1.8m and £2.4m respectively (IRI Total Market Value Sales 4 Weeks to 30th July 2023 vs YA).”

Within flavours, disposables over index in the fruit and sweet flavour segments with over 95 percent of sales coming from these profiles while 56 percent of closed system refills comprise more traditional flavours of Tobacco, Menthol and Mint. “JUUL2 is the main growth driver in this area with 55 percent of category sales (IRI Total Market Value Sales Latest Week to 2nd July 2023 vs YA),” adds Cook. “By their nature, illicit sales are difficult to monitor and while we welcome the government’s £3m investment in enforcement squads, we believe more should be done to tackle illicit products and the retailers who sell them.”

Over the last two years, the Office for National Statistics reports that the average price of a pack of cigarettes in the UK has increased by 26.6% – £14.45 in Q2 2023 v £11.41 in Q2 2021. Smoking is a very expensive habit and recent Juul Labs research shows that the average smoker (based on 9 cigarettes per day) could save over £1400 annually by switching to JUUL.

“The priority must be to ensure the vaping industry is acting responsibly in order to help adult smokers transition away from cigarettes and reduce the harms from tobacco while combating underage use,” says Cook. “We want to build a responsible vaping industry with tougher rules on packaging, flavours and promotions, to prevent these products getting into the hands of those who are underage. We look forward to seeing the Government set out further measures to tackle underage vaping following their recent call for evidence.”

Last month, Material Focus found that the number of disposable vapes thrown away has quadrupled from 1.3 million to five million per week in the past year, equivalent to eight per second. JUUL devices are not single-use devices and can be reused and recharged, unlike disposable vapes, and are designed to be long lasting with each device coming with a 2-year warranty. If needed, the battery part of the device can be recycled with other electronic waste. JUUL is committed to improving the sustainability of its products and, over the last 18 months has been operating a take-back scheme where users can return their used JUUL pods at no additional cost.

“The UK Government has recently completed a call for evidence into youth vaping,” adds Cook. “Disposables have been under political scrutiny and media interest intensifies, but views vary widely on the depth and scale of regulatory intervention required across the category. Quality products, focusing on sustainability/environmental impact, with responsible marketing and advertising practices, will be best placed in any future regulatory configuration. We await the Government’s response to the call for evidence with interest.”

Adrian Everett CEO, NEAFS, comments: “Disposable e-cigarettes have been under regulatory scrutiny in some regions, leading to concerns about potential bans. However, NEAFS stands ready to adapt. If disposables face stricter regulations, it will motivate the NGP industry to innovate further, focusing on developing eco-friendly and long-lasting alternatives to meet consumer demand.”

The vaping/NGP category is a massive market, valued at over $20 billion globally in 2021. The driving force behind this exponential growth is the increasing number of smokers seeking safer alternatives to traditional cigarettes and continuous innovation within the industry.

NGPs offer a wide array of choices, catering to diverse preferences. Closed pod systems are known for their simplicity, while open systems provide greater customisation options. NEAFS takes pride in leading the heat-not-burn sub-category, offering a smoke-free and tobacco-free alternative.

Flavour preferences in the NGP category are ever-evolving. Presently, consumers are gravitating towards natural and fruity flavours, seeking options that mimic the taste of tobacco without the harmful components. Classic flavours like tobacco and menthol still have a devoted following, and NEAFS is continually innovating to introduce new and exciting flavours.

Consumers are increasingly prioritising transparency, sustainability, and product quality. They want to know what’s in the products they use and are environmentally conscious. Additionally, online shopping and subscription models are gaining momentum, highlighting the importance of a robust online presence for retailers.

NEAFS’ best-selling product is the heat-not-burn device, which has garnered significant popularity among those looking to transition away from traditional cigarettes. It offers a smoke-free and tobacco-free nicotine experience.

“For retailers and wholesalers, staying informed about changing regulations and consumer preferences is essential,” adds Everett. “Flexibility and adaptability in product offerings are key, along with responsible marketing and sales practices that align with evolving industry standards.”

In the coming year, NEAFS is rolling out exciting new initiatives, including referral programs and loyalty programs designed to enhance the NEAFS experience for both consumers and retailers.

Philip Morris Limited (PML), the affiliate of Philip Morris International (PMI) in the UK and Ireland, has announced the launch of IQOS ILUMA, the latest and most innovative addition to its growing portfolio of smoke-free products, designed for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes.

The IQOS ILUMA series sees a line-up of three innovative devices – IQOS ILUMA PRIME, IQOS ILUMA and IQOS ILUMA ONE. All three are built with the same revolutionary technology at their core but have been designed to address varied preferences and different price points. IQOS ILUMA ONE – the hero product for the UK – is the most affordable option in the series priced at £39 (RRP), whereas IQOS ILUMA PRIME is the most enhanced device at £109 (RRP).

The new IQOS ILUMA comes with a myriad of user benefits and advantages for retailers, including SMARTCORE INDUCTION SYSTEM™ which uses an innovative magnetic heating system, resulting in no blade, and no cleaning.

The devices are intuitive, effortless, and closer to a cigarette experience compared to other alternatives, but without the burning, and emit on average 95% lower levels of harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes. Thanks to an improved draw, there is an elevated user experience with no cleaning required and no broken blade issues.

Due to its ease of use, little time is needed to explain the product to consumers.

IQOS ILUMA is more affordable than cigarettes, as smokers can save up to £3,000 a year when they switch to ILUMA ONE, the entry-level device within the IQOS ILUMA range.

Retailers currently stocking IQOS Original and HEETS can expect to see the same boost to their bottom line with the new device, as IQOS ILUMA and TEREA offers the equivalent profit margin. The cash margin for IQOS ILUMA ONE is likely to match that of IQOS Originals.

IQOS ILUMA is paired with the all-new TEREA tobacco sticks. Designed specifically for use in the device, TEREA use an innovative stainless-steel element inside the stick to heat tobacco from within without burning it. The TEREA range offers nine different tobacco blends, from classic, menthol or more aromatic tobacco variants. IQOS ILUMA is expected to keep building on the success of IQOS, helping adult smokers who don’t switch away from cigarettes for good. Vaping has done a lot for the UK, but the decline in smoking prevalence is plateauing and the problem of smoking still hasn’t been solved. Data shows that IQOS has a higher conversion rate for smokers versus vaping at almost three-quarters (72%) globally with users who have stopped smoking. In contrast, in 2023 whilst 83% of current adult smokers in Great Britain have tried vaping, just under a quarter have stuck with it. Christian Woolfenden, managing director for UK and Ireland for PML, said: “Globally, the heat-not-burn category is on an upward trajectory and PMI’s IQOS products have already helped millions worldwide to switch away from cigarettes. Heated tobacco is also seeing huge momentum in the UK, growing a staggering +400% in the last three years.

“We are now taking our innovation to the next level with IQOS ILUMA – revolutionary technology that gives adult smokers more options and represents an important leap forward in our efforts to accelerate the end of smoking. We are confident that with its attractive device range and price points, IQOS ILUMA is equally appealing for adult smokers as well as existing adult nicotine users and will step-change the growth of heated tobacco in the UK.”

Chris Aikens, External Affairs Manager at RELX International, comments: “One of the key trends we’re witnessing within the next-gen market is a decline in brand loyalty amongst existing adult vapers, particularly towards the original market leading disposable vape brands, those first to market.

“Previously, adult consumers were reluctant to deviate from their favoured chosen brand, now consumers are prioritising flavour and price above all else when selecting a new device.

“We predict that this trend will continue into 2024, as brand loyalty will ultimately be less valued by adult consumers, with more exploring different brands and device options.”

Earlier this year, RELX International launched two new disposable devices, WAKA soPro and RELX MagicGo, to meet the growing demand amongst adult consumers.

WAKA soPro is small and pebble-shaped, offering intense cloud bursts and an unparalleled taste profile while fitting discreetly into the palm of your hands or small pockets.

The device is available in 10 unique flavours: Blueberry Raspberry, Triple Mango, Pink Lemonade, Blueberry Splash, Strawberry Burst, Watermelon Chill, Red Buzz, Kiwi Passion Guava, and Pink Twist and Lemon Lime.

RELX MagicGo comes with the same MESH 2.0 coil as WAKA soPro and a 400mAh pure cobalt battery for long satisfaction, and a multi-layer flavour-lock structure for better leak resistance.

RELX MagicGo boasts a variety of flavours, including Strawberry Burst and Double Apple.

“At a time when a UK ban on disposable vapes is being discussed, it is important more now than ever to be vigilant and face the issue of underage usage head-on,” adds Aikens. “Tackling this issue should be a priority for vape manufacturers and retailers alike, and they must put appropriate measures in place to prevent the sale of vape products to this consumer group.


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