The vape category has grown to be worth around £1.2bn in the UK, with 38% of vaping volume sales taking place in the Convenience channel and 18% in Wholesale.

As demand for vaping products continues to grow, dedicating ample space to vaping products within depots should be an important area of focus for any wholesaler.

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, many customers have started shopping locally or online, in part because they are less willing to go far from home for their products.

“By ensuring retailers have a strong range of vaping products that are displayed well in store, and supported by knowledgeable staff, there is an opportunity for convenience stores to retain customers of vape products that might shop elsewhere such as specialist vape stores,” comments Duncan Cunningham, UK Corporate Affairs Director at Imperial Tobacco & blu.

“As a result of the ban on characterising flavours, some consumers have been looking to vaping to fulfil their flavour needs. In fact, our best-selling variant in the myblu range is the Menthol Intense Liquidpod so we would highly recommend this as a must-stock for all wholesalers.”

Figures show that pod systems and cartridges have seen the most year on year growth across all channels and within Wholesale specifically, closed devices, such as myblu, are the most popular, accounting for 3.1% of volume share, vs. 1.4% for open devices.

One of the main factors driving the popularity of pod-mod systems like myblu is their ease of use, with the device’s hassle free Liquidpods allowing vapers to switch between flavours in seconds via a simple one-step ‘click and go’ system.

“With this in mind, we’d strongly recommend including a leading pod-mod system such as myblu within the range to tap into this trend,” adds Cunningham.

The myblu pod-mod device is one of blu’s leading vape products. The device combines the performance demanded by experienced vapers with the ease-of-use appreciated by new entrants to the category. The device’s hassle free Liquidpods allow vapers to switch between flavours in seconds via a simple one-step ‘click and go’ system.

“We work closely with our wholesale customers through a range of tactics, including promotions, to help them maximise their sales of vape products and ensure they are offering the right products to cater for their retail customers,” says Cunningham.

Gemma Bateson, Head of Reduced Risk Products at JTI UK, comments: “The vaping category was especially impacted when vape stores were first forced to shut down in early 2020, as they fell into the category of ‘non-essential’ shops. This has meant that adult vapers had to look elsewhere to stock up on their vaping e-liquids and devices – turning to trusted local shops and supermarkets.”

When vape stores were allowed to re-open on June 15 2020, sales of e-cigarettes in traditional retail remained 7% higher than pre-pandemic levels and in November last year, sales boosted again, increasing by 8% in traditional retail and 13% in Independents stores.

“Now that existing adult smokers and vapers have become more aware of the wide range of vaping products available to them, and just how easy it is to pick them up in traditional retail, we expect these channels to retain these new customers,” says Bateson.

“We are committed to providing support to all trade partners via our dedicated salesforce and we would encourage any account who requires assistance to contact their JTI representative, visit our website JTI Advance or call the customer care line,” adds Bateson.

Darren Griffin, UK Country Manager of ZYN, comments: “Following the ban on menthol cigarettes in 2020, consumers have now become even more open to reduce risk products when looking for menthol alternatives, and nicotine pouches have continued to see a tremendous growth in the last 12 months. The nicotine pouch category has seen a weekly CAGR of 1.8%, an average monthly growth rate of 8% and in 2021 is forecasted to grow to a CAGR of 206% from 2020 volumes. When looking at the nicotine pouch market specifically, mint flavoured nicotine pouches currently make 77% of the total market volume.”

Nicotine pouches (without tobacco), have continued to gain popularity in the UK, which was followed by a huge uptake in the USA. Now in the UK, there is a significant rise in the demand for this tobacco-free, smoke-free alternative. ZYN was originally developed for the US market, and is now America’s best-selling tobacco-free nicotine pouch, with over 100 million cans sold in 2020 alone.

ZYN nicotine pouches are available in Spearmint, Citrus, Espressino, Bellini and its most popular flavour, Cool Mint. Most flavours come in two different strengths, 3mg and 6mg. Cool Mint is now also available in 9mg strength. This new product has helped meet the demands of UK consumers, as the majority (70%) of nicotine pouch sales today are from products containing 9mg of nicotine or higher.

Paul Wilkinson Director of Hyppe UK, comments: “Disposable Vapes are really doing well currently, mainly due to the cost per unit. Many people have wanted to try vaping as an alternative to smoking for quite some time, but they find the idea of coils, battery, tanks, liquids, recharging a bit overwhelming to start. So, the fact that disposables devices are offering a simple open and use is very attractive to the end user.”

Menthol, iced mint, and other flavours have always been good sellers in the vape world. Post the menthol ban many more people have found vaping is suppling both their nicotine and flavour needs.

“Whereas town or city centre stores seemed to struggle though the pandemic as the footfall was dramatically reduced, the suburban stores were suppling a great deal more vaping products to the customers around them. A rise in the use of slat based nicotine liquids has certainly been seen from the manufacture and distribution and the sales of disposable products and first time user has taken a huge upwards trend. People sitting at home have had time to refocus and readjust many parts of their lifestyle,” says Wilkinson.

Hyppe MAXX launched at the start of October with 5 flavours. The next 5 flavours will be coming soon followed by another 5 after that.

Tom Curle, Marketing Director at 4nx, comments: “Consumers are looking for more pocket friendly smoking alternatives, this is not just about the size of the packaging. The need for a cost conscious brand is paramount post COVID, as many consumers will now look to save money on their weekly shop whilst still being conscious of their health and wellbeing. 4nx is positioning itself to be disruptive to the market, with a RSP of £5.00. The aim was to create a high quality product while making it affordable to the consumer and attractive to the retailer with up to 55% margins.”

4nx has launched three flavours of Mint 6mg, Icy Mint 10mg and Arctic Mint 12mg, with more flavours coming in 2022. Each pack contains 20 slim nicotine pouches packed with intense flavour. The brand is investing in a digital marketing campaign from the start of 2022, supporting its range to further strengthen its position within the category.

4nx is also investing heavily in retailer education via its field team.

“We see education, retailer support and consumer choice at the forefront of the space over the next 12 months,” adds Curle. “We have to be able to offer consumers and retailers what they need to achieve their goals. Offering a less harmful alternative is critical to a smoke free future for the world. Covid has had an impact but with brands like 4nx doing a fantastic job in offering smoking alternatives, we believe a smoke free future is achievable and our objective is to support that mission.”

Irshad Kara, Chief Executive Officer at NZO Vape, comments: “We have seen a rise in consumers transitioning into convenience stores as well as an increase in the selection of products offered by these stores. This brings their offering more in line with that of the traditional specialist vape store. Many consumers will have become used to the ease of buying their vape products from these accessible convenience stores at the same time as doing their weekly shop, and so we anticipate that customer retention in this sector will remain high.”

NZO Menthol 20mg is being extended with a 10mg SKU and a Mixed Berry Menthol is launching.

“We anticipate the demand for choice will continue over the next 12 months – closed pod systems will accelerate in the coming years due to the ease and convenience that this option offers to both current vapers and those looking to make the switch from traditional cigarettes,” adds Kara. “We see the need for more flavour choice and why nzo continue to partner with leading vape brands but we also are investing in a nzo open-pod-system to aid the consumer journey from closed-pod-systems to supplement the new nzo 10ml range – increased flavour profiles bridge the gap for the vapor and smoker.”

Chris Kelly, CEO, Phoenix2Retail, comments: “It’s clear to see from tracked channel data that both grocers and convenience stores sales increased dramatically during the lockdown period. It’s also interesting to see that even after the lockdown these sectors have held onto quite a bit of the share, leaving them with an overall net growth in the category.”

The current trend is heavily swung to new disposable products in the category, likely due to their price point convenience and availability. Brands such as Geek Bar and Elf bar have taken major share within both Vape stores and C-stores nationwide.

VIP Vapecom Triple Menthol is still way ahead of the pack in both B2C and B2B sales, and a firm favourite, with Pukka’s Triple menthol and Relx Pods Menthol Plus coming in close behind.

“Retailers should be looking for a category lead offering within their store,” says Kelly. “The category is bigger than any one brand and retailers need to have an offering that supports consumers along their vape journey. Currently, the category solution of choice would be Vape-stop as it partners with the most popular and widely available brands in the industry. This would make the retailer a one stop shop for consumers’ vaping needs instead of an impulse or stop-gap purchased before going to their local vape shop.”

Phoenix2Retail has introduced a total category solution through Vape-Stop. Vape-Stop delivers the best performing brands according to IRI and Nielsen data. Furthermore, the unit is free to install, and a platform for easy refill and ordering has been created for retailers. Through this solution, Phoenix2Retail also offers ongoing support, education and training to all team members. “Retailers need to ensure they have a total category solution at hand that gives the customer access to the leading brands,” adds Kelly. “This takes the guess work out of which brands to choose, and ensures the retailer can offer exactly what they customer wants from their vape offering.”

“We believe now more than ever people are looking for a less harmful and healthier outlook from all parts of life,” continues Kelly. “People will look for less harmful alternatives to combustible tobacco and I believe the development of range within convenience throughout lockdown positions the retailer to grow the category.”


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