What you need to know about the Vaping category

Ross Hennessy

With vaping in strong growth following May’s Menthol Ban, the category has lots to offer local retailers. In this exclusive Q&A, Ross Hennessy, Sales Vice President at JTI UK, shares his thoughts on what is a £100m+ sales opportunity.

How is the vaping category shaping up?
“The impact of Covid-19 is prevalent and while we continue to see change, the vaping category is showing no signs of slowing down. In fact, it’s growing 26.6% year-on-year[i], and worth £106 million in the last year in convenience[ii], remaining an exciting sales opportunity for retailers nationwide.

“We are continuing to innovate to ensure we meet the needs of the ever-growing number of vaping consumers in the UK and have a dedicated insights team that tracks market trends, so we can provide retailers with new Logic products that allow them to maximise the profit potential of the category.”

Do you have an indication yet about how both the coronavirus pandemic and the Menthol Ban in May have affected the category?
“Despite everything that’s happened this year, shoppers are still prioritising great value products and vaping continues to grow. There has been changes in the type of products sought after by consumers, for example with menthol and capsule cigarettes now banned, some shoppers are turning to alternatives, such as our menthol e-liquid range. Retailers should continue to monitor the trends that develop post-ban and stock products that meet new customer needs.”

How are vaping sales in convenience performing against the supermarkets and online retailers?
“Lockdown affected the way we all did our weekly shop, which saw adult vapers turning to local convenience stores and close-by supermarkets to stock up on their vaping needs. As vape stores began to re-open in June, sales in convenience grew by 15%[iii] compared to 9%[iv] in grocery versus pre-lockdown levels, as shoppers became more aware of the wide range of vaping products available and how easy it is to pick them up at their local convenience store. Although still early, we expect these shopping habits to remain.”

What are the key trends in terms of flavours, formats, strengths, e-liquids (nic salts), etc?
“The rise of closed tank devices, or pod vapes, which is currently the fastest growing vaping segment in the UK[v] will continue to grow in popularity. We encourage retailers to stock up on the best sellers, such as our popular pod-device, Logic Compact in order to make the most of this opportunity.

“As vapers become more experimental with their vaping choices, nicotine salts such as our Logic Compact Intense and EPIQ ranges offer a smoother, more intense flavour delivery and are available in a range of strengths and the UK’s most popular flavours such as fruit (31%), followed by tobacco (21%) and then menthol (20%)[vi].”

What key advice would you give local retailers to help them grow their vaping sales?
“Retailers should maintain a good level of availability across best-sellers and popular e-liquids and devices in their area. Along with this, monitoring sales at a regional level using EPoS data and speaking to a JTI sales rep to discuss their vaping offering, will help retailers identify any emerging trends and confirm that they’re stocking the right range.”

How important is staff training in this category?
“Staff training is key and retailers should ensure they are well-equipped to assist customers, by taking the time to learn about the category and have up-to-date knowledge. This is especially true when it comes to retailing responsibly to prevent minors from having access to vaping products.

“We are committed to supporting retailers in this area via both JTI Advance and our extensive sales force. Retailers and their staff must be educated and aware of recent developments, understand the needs of different vapers, and possess an in-depth knowledge of the various devices, liquids, and flavours available.”

Which other related categories should retailers be keeping an eye on? (e.g nicotine pouches)
“Tobacco-free nicotine pouches are one to watch and present a huge profit opportunity for retailers, as customers look towards alternatives to traditional tobacco and vaping products. Retailers should therefore look to stock products such as Nordic Spirit, which holds 90.5% market share[vii] and is available in three flavours – Mint, Bergamot Wildberry and Elderflower – and three strengths: a regular 6mg, strong 9mg and a stronger 12mg Mint variant.”

[i] IRI Market Place, Value Sales, Total E-Vapour Category, Total UK, MAT Jun 2020 vs MAT Jun 2019

[ii] IRI Market Place, Value Sales, Total E-Vapour Category, Convenience GB & NI Combined, MAT Jun 2020

[iii] IRI Marketplace, EXT1 Convenience GB, Total E-Vapour Category, Unit Sales, Av. Post to w/e 20/09/20, Av. Pre lockdown to w/e 15/03/20

[iv] IRI Marketplace, EXT1 Supermarkets GB & NI, Total E-Vapour Category, Unit Sales, Av. 12wks Post to w/e 30/08/20, Av. 12wks Pre lockdown to w/e 15/03/20

[v] IRI Market Place, Unit Sales, Total E-Vapour Category, Total UK, Latest 3 Months to Jun 2020 vs Latest 3 Months YA

[vi] Kantar / Online One Tracker Q2 2020

[vii] IRi Market Place, Unit Share, Nicotine Pouch Category, Total UK, May 2020