Chris Street Head of Trade Marketing at 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 Wholesale Manager.

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

How do you work with wholesalers to serve the independent and convenience sector?

We regularly support wholesale customers with depot days and promotions, but one of our biggest areas of focus is education. While online retailers and vape stores are cashing in by offering informed, specialist advice, traditional retailers are missing out. With a dizzying number of devices and liquids available, many retailers may be understandably intimidated by the breadth of the vape offering. They need advice on what to buy and reassurances on product quality so it’s vital that depot staff understand what they are selling and the end customers they sell to. Training is key and by educating staff on the category and terminology used, wholesalers can provide exceptional service to customers that encourages them to return to the depot again and again.

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 deviceiii. 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 irom tobacco to menthol and fruity flavours in a variety of nicotine strengths, including nicsalts like myblu Intense. Our liquids are tested in Nerudia, our quality-controlled 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 femalesiv. There are 3.2m vapers in the UK, yet 37% of smokers haven’t tried vapingv.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 preferredvi and three of the top five blu e-liquid flavours are fruit-basedvii. 54% of vape sales are liquids so, while offering the right range of devices is key, stocking a strong portfolio of e-liquids 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 wholesalers maximise sales of your products?

Expanding their category knowledge around all things vape related will put wholesalers in a strong position to grow sales by enabling them to effectively train their staff and educate their customers.

Generating buzz around the depot floor can also create real impact. Vaping products don’t need to be restricted to the tobacco room so merchandise blu products and promotions in other high footfall areas like at the checkout with PoS and other dynamic display solutions to grab the attention of shoppers.

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.