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Stay up to speed with the vaping category

December 3, 2018

Photo: iStock

Despite only being around a decade old, the UK vaping market continues to develop and evolve at pace from both a commercial and technical perspective.
The category is estimated to be worth £728m, with sales channels spanning online and vape stores in addition to traditional retail outlets.

While it may be difficult to ascertain the true scale of this fast-growing category, what is clear is that the opportunity it presents for retailers is huge.
There are 3m vapers in the UK, a figure that is expected to continue to rise; which is no surprise when one considers the significant lifestyle and cost benefits compared to traditional tobacco.

However, currently only a minority of vape sales stem from traditional retail outlets, suggesting a real growth opportunity for convenience store owners prepared to upskill and invest in the category.

“The continuous evolution of vaping technology, allied to changing consumer trends, makes this an incredibly fast-moving and exciting category,” says Duncan Cunningham, Head of Corporate and Legal Affairs. “blu is constantly looking at ways to strengthen its innovation – driven by consumer insights – to further enhance its broad product portfolio and ensure it continues to meet the changing needs of established vapers, as well as smokers looking to switch to something better.”

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, 40% of UK smokers still haven’t even tried vaping (Public Health England).

“We believe it’s our responsibility to continue to develop products that will encourage these individuals to switch, whether through great new flavours, breakthroughs in nicotine delivery like Nicsalts or vape devices utilising current wider tech trends like smartphone connectivity,” adds Cunningham. “The vape category will only continue to grow, potentially presenting one of the biggest retail opportunities in recent years.”

Vaping continues to gain traction in the UK via a growing body of research in favour of e-vapour (EVP) products.

Regulators and public health bodies are increasingly concluding the category presents less of a risk to public health than cigarettes, and that vaping has an important role to play in helping smokers switch to something better.

This includes, most recently, calls from MPs in the Science and Technology Committee for the Government to relax its vaping laws and regulations, which they argued were hampering the sector – as well as highlighting that a ban on vaping in public spaces would be counterproductive for those attempting to quit – with the ambition of helping more people to switch. blu supports this recommendation and believes the more widespread, positive word of mouth around vaping, the better.

Ultimately, positive regulation that’s based on rigorous, peer-reviewed research will ensure consumers have access to high quality products and information they can trust, helping them in their journey to transition from smoking to vaping.

“As with other categories, sales of vape products can spike at certain times of year, especially those typically associated with consumer health drives such as January,” says Cunningham. “Key social occasions like Christmas should also be considered.”

As consumer interest in vaping continues to grow, retailers are likely to see vape product sales opportunities emerge linked to other key occasions such as the NHS-led Stoptober initiative, as well as VApril.

“While it’s important for retailers to maintain stock levels throughout the year, we would recommend taking extra care – and driving extra consumer attention towards their vape offerings – at these peak times of year to avoid missing out on sales,” Cunningham comments.

As with the range of devices stocked, retailers should take care to offer a flavour portfolio that satisfies their customers’ needs. While some consumers may be looking for a tobacco flavour to mimic the flavour of traditional cigarettes, research shows that fruit-based flavours are increasingly preferred. In fact, three of the five top-selling blu e-liquid flavours are fruit-based: No.1 menthol, No.2 blueberry, No.3 tobacco, No.4 strawberry mint and No.5 cherry.

“We would always recommend stocking a wide range of flavours at different nicotine strengths that are suitable for a variety of devices, including both e-liquids and Liquidpods,” Cunningham continues. “Ranges should comprise of fresh flavours like our Polar Mint, fruity flavours like Tropic Tonic, savoury flavours like Vanilla Crème and of course, classic Tobacco flavour.”

blu has already made some significant strides with its e-liquid range following its acquisition last year of Nerudia, an independent company dedicated to innovation and R&D in the vaping category, and has further plans in the pipeline to drive new innovation in the category both in 2019 and beyond to ensure blu remains at the cutting edge of e-vapour.

This includes the launch of its improved Tobacco flavour, expected to arrive in market towards the end of 2018/beginning of 2019, offering consumers a more caramel-ly, nuttier flavour profile. Keep an eye out for an ‘enhanced flavour’ flash on your blu tobacco e-liquid packaging!

Dynamic market

The market has evolved over the past five years to a dynamic but professional industry. There are lots of players, and huge consumer choice for both hardware and e-liquids.

“The choice is great for consumers but can sometimes be daunting and confusing and there are many products that are of dubious quality,” says Sally Hart, Head of Marketing & Communications at The Vapouriz Group. “To enjoy a flavoursome and safe vape, we would always encourage people to buy quality products – both hardware and liquids – from a reputable company.”

The Vapouriz portfolio of brands provide e-liquids for all vapers and in over 200 flavours from traditional tobaccos and menthol to the exciting deserts of the Ohm Baked Range.

“There are several key trends in this fast-paced and exciting industry,” continues Hart. “Disruptive entrants to the market tend to grab the headlines, but we are noticing a drive for high quality products – particularly e-liquids – that provide great flavour with quality ingredients.”
The next step in the evolution of e-liquids will be the introduction of nicotine salts which give a rounder smoother taste. Vapouriz will shortly be bringing nic salts to market for its Vaporuiz e-liquids range and its high VG sub ohm brand Double Drip.

“Our main advice would be to stock a wide range of quality liquids – products that are easy to understand and so easy for anyone to sell and, therefore, easy for consumers to buy,” adds Hart.

“Bring in new flavours to complement the ones that you know are in constant demand. People like to change flavours and seasonal options are a great way to refresh your offer.

Within the vaping category, capsule and refillable products are currently the fastest growing devices, and are now used by most UK vapers, says Ross Hennessy Head of Sales at JTI UK.

Of the 76% of adult vapers that use refillable devices, 72% of these use their device daily (Nielsen).

Lower strength e-liquids now account for over 26% of the segment (Nielsen), so the extension of JTI’s successful Logic LQD e-liquids with the launch of new lower strength (6mg) variant offers retailers a significant profit opportunity.

Retailers can tap into this growing refillable market by stocking Logic LQD, which recently updated its e-liquid bottles with a new design and competitive RRP of £3.99. Retailers can also sell the revamped LQD bottles as part of JTI’s long-term 3-for-£10 promotion to meet consumer demand for value products.

“Communication with customers is an area where independent retailers have an opportunity to maximise sales,” comments Hennessy. “By ensuring they are knowledgeable about their vaping range, independent retailers can continue to be a preferred store for their vaper customers.”

Retailers should use regular conversations with their existing adult vapers to adapt their ranges and maximise sales, Hennessy suggests.

This depth of category knowledge and time to speak with customers should be used by convenience retailers as a significant advantage and opportunity over nearby multiples and vape shops.