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 Wholesale Manager what wholesalers need to do to maximise vape sales and how JTI is helping wholesalers improve their staff training around the vaping category.

Can you talk us through your brand portfolio?

As Reduced Risk Products Director at JTI UK, 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 £37 million in traditional retaili and growing 27.9% 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.

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 £307 million in traditional retailiii, with growth of 21.6% year-on-yeariv, making it an important category for wholesalers.

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. At the moment, the device is available to JTI accredited retailers in London, and our EVO tobacco sticks are available to all wholesalers within the M25.

How is JTI helping wholesalers 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 wholesalers capitalise on this exciting revenue opportunity.

We also know that vapers 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 wholesalers 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 vapers are now aware of the wide range of vaping products available and the ease of picking them up in traditional retail. In order for these channels to continue retaining customers, it’s crucial wholesalers continue helping retailers provide choice, so that they can reinforce their position as being a go-to outlet for vapers.

What do wholesalers need to do to maximise vape sales?

For wholesalers to make the most of their vape offering, having up-to-date knowledge and insight around the latest trends, flavours and products is key. To build up knowledge and offer a good level of customer service, wholesalers should take advantage of educational tools such as JTI Advance – JTI trade website, which offers advice to help make the most of the vaping category, from the latest trends to legislation and NPD. They can also speak to their JTI representative to get more information around key category insights and what to stock.

Additionally, to maximise the profit opportunity available and remain a key destination for retailers, wholesalers should maintain good availability with a consolidated range that reflects the latest trends and meets the needs of existing adult vapers.

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

Since March 2020, despite not being able to visit wholesalers, we’ve stepped up our virtual communication to continue to offer support during the pandemic. We’ve also been directing wholesalers 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 retailers.

We know that some wholesalers 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 wholesalers and offer advice.

We’re committed to providing support to all our wholesale 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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