Swan, from Republic Technologies, is the number one filter tip brand, with variants ranging from the best-selling Extra Slim to the market’s slimmest filter, Ultra Slim.

Republic Technologies operates in the UK tobacco accessories market, which is worth over £299m.

The market has been driven by the ban on menthol flavoured and crushball cigarettes which has driven smokers to flavoured filters.

Nathan Adams, National Account Manager at Republic Technologies, tells Wholesale Manager about the company’s latest launches and how Republic works with wholesalers to grow their business.

What is your background? How long have you been at Republic Technologies and where did you work before that?

My background was originally in engineering, before transitioning across to sales. Thankfully, there are lots of transferrable skills! I’ve been working at Republic Technologies since 2014, and have covered a variety of roles in the convenience channel in my time here.

Tell us about your role. What is a typical day for you?

My role as National Account Manager for Wholesale is to make sure we continue to drive mutual profitable growth through merchandising, range development and sales analysis while building sustainable partnerships with our key customers. Consequently, I get to work with an incredibly dedicated, insightful team and set of customers every day.

There is no “typical” day thankfully. I can be involved in anything from brand activation events and reviewing NPD through to sales and market data analysis.

Can you give us an overview of the company’s brands?

Our brands provide a one stop shop for the roll your own smoker. Swan is the market leading filter tip brand, offering a range of options from the best-selling Extra Slim, through to the market’s slimmest Filter, Ultra Slim. Zig-Zag papers offer smokers amazing value for money with both our single and multipack formats. OCB are our most refined papers, offering a silky touch, lightweight feel and premium quality, providing the best possible rolling experience. Each leaf is gummed with OCB natural acacia gum, sustainably sourced from African acacia trees, which is 100% natural, vegan, and GM free.

What is the value of the UK tobacco accessories market?

The UK tobacco accessories market is worth over £299m, with an additional £9m* added to the category in the last 52 weeks*. OCB is the fastest growing paper brand in the UK*.

*Value Sales IRI 52wks To 01/11/20 – Total Market

What trends are driving the market?

The key trend driving the market is the ban on menthol flavoured and crushball cigarettes which came into force in May last year. Menthol and crushball sales made up 23% of the ready-made cigarette market, so all those consumers have been looking for alternatives to get the menthol flavour and crushball sensation they are accustomed to. To give these consumers the choice they were seeking, we launched a range of new Swan Filters including Swan Fresh Burst Crushball, Swan Cool Burst Crushball and Swan Cool Menthol to complement the existing market-leading Swan Menthol Extra Slim.

Living in uncertain times has led to some further trends. We’ve generally seen usage of tobacco accessories increase as more consumers are at home in environments without restrictions on tobacco use. As people have stayed at home, usage of household matches has increased as consumers relax with lighting candles or spend more time cooking. Our household match brands, Bryant & May and Cook’s are both showing double digit growth.*

*Value Sales IRI 52wks To 01/11/20 – Total Market

How is the new range of Zig-Zag lighters performing so far?

Our new Zig-Zag range of lighters is performing exceptionally well. Our multipack range of flint, electronic and windproof lighters has made real gains in the wholesale sector with excellent levels of distribution. Our most recent launch of Zig-Zag branded utility, candle and kitchen lighters, along with two new premium candle lighter brands, in lumière and By candlelight, have also showed good sales. The candle lighters in particular tap into a growing sector in candles, as more consumers relax at home with candles and want a premium product to use as part of that routine. Our new product range offers exactly that.

Republic Technologies launched six new Swan filters at the beginning of this year. How has the uptake been amongst retailers? Are the variants selling well?

We launched a range of crushball filters and a new menthol filter variant to give consumers affected by the menthol ban more choice in the category. Uptake amongst retailers has been phenomenal, as they identified early on the need for these products. Sales have reflected retailers’ and consumers’ enthusiasm for the products and we expect them to remain key products in our offering going forward.

We also launched Swan Extra Long, Swan Graphite and Swan Eco Loose filters. Uptake among wholesalers and retailers has been strong. Roll-your-own consumers want to roll a cigarette that reflects their individual tastes and preferences and that is what this range offers. Swan Graphite provides the ultimate in filtration using activated carbon paper, which removes impurities. Swan Extra Long has been developed to resemble more closely a factory-made cigarette (50% longer than the standard 14mm Extra Slim Filter), offering a saving on tobacco per cigarette. Swan Eco consists of high-quality unbleached paper enclosed in an outer paper wrap, making it 100% biodegradable and the most environmentally-friendly filter in the UK market.

How has business been for Republic Technologies during Covid-19?

Like many others, Covid-19 has continued to throw challenges at us. Despite this, we’ve been able to maintain excellent availability in wholesale, continue to innovate and launch NPD and work with key accounts to grow their category sales. While we had to bring our field based customer development team off the road temporarily, they’ve continued to support their accounts remotely with promotions, large scale brand activity and merchandising advice.

According to your website, Republic Technologies will be launching Wholesale Awards. Tell us more about that – what is the overall goal of these awards? What categories will there be?

The goal of our Wholesale Awards is to help recognise the wholesalers and staff members who work so hard to keep growing the category, working with us on brand activation and NPD development. We feel that a little recognition of the amazing work so many wholesalers do is never a bad thing! There will be 3 awards: Wholesaler of the year, Delivered Wholesaler of the Year and the Rising Star award which is specifically for the individual who has had the most impact on the category.

What advice do you have for wholesalers on merchandising accessories in depot?

Tobacco accessories might not be the largest category most wholesalers will deal with, but there are a lot of different segments, all with different uses and purchasing decisions. We recommend merchandising by category then by brand, to make the fixture as easy to shop as possible. Allocate space according to sales potential and make sure pricing is clear. Branded bays and pallet displays will also attract your customers’ attention, boosting sales accordingly.

Where possible, display some key accessories in the household aisle as well as the tobacco room (allowing for all legislative requirements in Scotland). Matches and utility lighters work best outside of the tobacco room. At the very least, consider displays near the tobacco room door which will give so many more customers visibility and access to these strong-performing products.

How do you work with wholesalers to improve sales?

Wholesale is massively important to us as a business, and we work hard to develop and grow the relationships we have. Our Customer Development Team has regular contact with our accounts and is able to offer a full promotional plan across all our brands along with point of sale, off shelf display units and expert category insight. Regularly reviewed and tracked joint business plans are key.

What brand activity do you have planned?

We have plans for a range of in-depot activity across quarters 1 and 2 2021, with particular focus on our Swan and OCB product ranges. We will be running a number of retail drives throughout the year, working in conjunction with a number of our key accounts.

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