All change!

Players Max cigarettes

A flood of recent innovation seeks to offer greater choice to value-driven adult smokers.

By Gaelle Walker

As a category, tobacco is nothing if not adaptable. Its products, formats and features are in a constant state of flux as manufacturers clamour to meet regulatory requirements and the ever-evolving needs of adult smokers.

However, recent months have seen an uptick in this new product development drive as the UK’s big name manufacturers rally to fight for their share of a market which is now dominated by the need to deliver value for money.

With tobacco prices at their highest and consumer spending power still down in the doldrums, it’s a need that is now outright crucial – especially in Scotland, where 21.2% of all Factory Made Cigarette (FMC) sales are now in the value price sector, according to Regal Signature manufacturer Imperial Tobacco.

Hence the wave of recent NPD that has washed over tobacco’s FMC category specifically.

We’re talking the launch of new longer sticks, new slimmer formats, new more-intense tobacco blends and a barrage of added-value packaging features.

Imperial Tobacco’s most recent bid for value glory saw it launch Players Max in November.

Available to convenience retailers now with an RSP of £10.50, Players Max cigarette sticks are 12% longer than Players’ standard Kingsize format – yet with an RSP that’s £1.35 less.

The new variant also offers adult smokers a “new intense blend with a full tobacco taste” that Imperial says has “proved a popular and preferred choice” in consumer testing.

Staying within the limits of the UK’s standardised packaging regulations, the new variant also features a “modern and stylish, bevelled-edge pack,” which offers adult smokers the added-value benefit of a “more robust” and firmer feel.

Tom Gully, Imperial Tobacco’s Head of Consumer Marketing UK & Ireland explains the thinking behind the format. “With 68% of tobacco sales now in the lowest price sector, stocking Players Max will enable retailers to further capitalise on the rising demand for value tobacco by offering adult smokers a new cost-effective option from a well-known, trusted brand.”

The November launch of Players Max came just a matter of months after the unveiling of another new format for Players in August.

Featuring sticks that are 13% slimmer in size, the Players Compact variant offers adult smokers a “quicker and more pleasurable smoke” that Imperial says is “ideal for existing adult smokers looking to socialise”. Packs of Players Compact are available now with an RSP of £11.60.

The new compact format was also rolled out to Imperial’s Richmond brand – with Richmond Compact available with an ultra-value RSP of £10.99.

Feeling festive

Henri Wintermans Half Corona

Scandinavian Tobacco Group recently unveiled a new limited-edition pack for its Henri Wintermans Half Corona brand in the run-up to Christmas.

Available in two distinctive different colour schemes, the new-look packs have been designed to “bring a bit of excitement to the category” over the festive season – a key time for cigar sales.

With a value of £16m a year, the medium-large cigar brand is “typically popular with adult smokers who have more time on their hands or are celebrating a special occasion and want to enjoy a larger cigar with a longer smoke,” STG says.

Its sales traditionally go up over the Christmas period “where it is regularly enjoyed as part of the festive celebrations”.

Japan Tobacco International (JTI) has also entered the NPD fray – expanding its value range of FMC cigarettes with the launch of Mayfair Gold in October.

Available to convenience retailers now at an RSP of £11.60, JTI’s Mayfair Gold brand has been designed to offer adult smokers “a premium quality Virginia blend” for a great-value price point.

It joins Mayfair Silver as one of JTI’s lowest-priced cigarette brands.

In addition to a premium blend, packs of Mayfair Gold also offer adult smokers the added-value feature of rounded corners.

Mark McGuinness, Marketing Director at JTI UK, says: “Price remains the main consideration when existing adult smokers are making a purchasing decision. By stocking iconic brands, like Mayfair Gold, at ultra-low prices, retailers can capitalise on the sales opportunity from this new launch.

“The ultra-value sector remains a key priority for us, as the fastest-growing segment in both RMC and roll-your-own tobacco.”

Earlier this year JTI also repositioned its Sovereign Blue FMC brand to a more competitive value-priced RSP, providing existing adult smokers with a greater choice of well-known brands at the value end of the market.

All wrapped up

Adult cigarillo smokers will also be able to indulge in JTI’s Sterling Dual Double Capsule Leaf Wrapped brand this festive season.

Launched earlier this year, the brand features a blend of peppermint and berry mint capsules designed to offer “a dual flavour and enhanced taste”.

The cigarillo category is growing in convenience and is now worth approximately £8m a month according to Circana Market Place data March 2023.

Rolling on down

With 6.4 million kilograms of rolling tobacco sold in the UK each year, the roll-your-own (RYO) category continues to offer retailers a significant opportunity to maximise sales – especially those who stock up on Value RYO products.

The shift towards low-priced propositions is particularly prevalent within RYO and especially in Scotland, where 27.1% of RYO sales are in the value price sector, according to EPOS SPOT Shares data from Imperial Tobacco.

RYO’s robust performance has also resulted in year-on-year growth of 7.2% in RYO accessories, with annual sales of tobacco accessories now valued at £33.2m in Scotland, according to Circana data to August 23.

The category’s fastest-growing sector is rolling papers, which is showing double digit growth and is also the highest value sector in Scotland, worth £10.7m according to Republic Technologies.

The Slim & Tips subcategory is also recording impressive growth, with products that offer adult smokers value for money such as combi packs, and ways to economise, such as extra-long filters which allow for the use of less tobacco in each stick, in strong demand.

Accessories that offer added-value features, such as filters containing crush balls also continue to drive sales.

Republic Technologies offers two types of crushball filter: Swan Cool Burst Crushball and Swan Fresh Burst Crushball.

Smokefree plans receive enormous response

The UK government has received tens of thousands of responses to its consultation on plans to create a smokefree generation and crack down on youth vaping.

More than 12,000 responses had already been submitted less than halfway through the eight-week consultation, which closes on 6 December.

The consultation includes a proposal to stop children turning 14 this year, or younger, from ever legally being sold tobacco products – in effect, raising the smoking age by a year each year until it applies to the whole population.

If adopted, the new law would make it an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to be sold tobacco products – and in Scotland, also an offence for anyone born on or after 1 January 2009 to purchase tobacco products.

King Charles III set out plans for the government to introduce the Tobacco and Vapes Bill in the King’s speech on 7 November.

Research of 1,000 retailers conducted by JTI found that 86% of convenience retailers believe the generational ban will have a negative impact on their business.

Over two-thirds said the ban would likely lead to an increase in illicit tobacco activity, while 62% said it would be costly to their business in terms of implementation, with 55% saying it will make ID checks more complicated for staff.

Track and Trace extension looms

The track and trace rules that have applied to cigarettes and rolling tobacco products since May 2019, are to be extended to Other Tobacco Products (OTP) in May 2024.

OTP include cigars, cigarillos, waterpipe tobacco (shisha), pipe tobacco and other niche products that contain tobacco.

From 20 May 2024, retailers will need economic operator identifier (EOID) and facility identifier (FID) codes to buy OTP products.

To get the codes, retailers need to register and create an account with the UK’s Identifier Issuer Dentsu.

Retailers will have until 20 May 2026 to sell through supplies of old stock manufactured in, or imported into, the UK.

A small number of handmade cigars will be exempt from the legislation and have an unlimited sell through period.

HMRC will provide further details on which handmade cigars will be exempt on GOV.UK in due course.

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This publication contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under the age of 18 years old.

This website contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under 18 years of age.

This website contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under 18 years of age.

This publication contains images and information relating to tobacco products. Please do not view if you are under the age of 18 years old.