Heat wave | In focus: Heated tobacco

By David Shrimpton in Category Management 26th September 2023

With all the noise surrounding vaping at the moment, it is easy to forget that when it comes to smoking alternatives, the vape stick is not the only game in town. Electric Tobacco Heater

Heat wave | In focus: Heated tobacco

Another viable option – especially for would-be ex-smokers who find vapes don’t quite hit the spot as a replacement for traditional cigarettes – is heated tobacco.

These devices feature a heating element that inserts into a cigarette-like stick of specially treated tobacco. But instead of burning the product and inhaling the smoke, they heat the tobacco to create a kind of vapour (technically an ‘aerosol’) that the user then inhales.

Because most of the harmful chemicals in traditional cigarettes are created by the combustion process, heat-not-burn products have been found in initial tests to pose far less of a danger to health – although they are not risk-free.

While the products have been more successful in international markets such as Japan and Switzerland, they are gaining followers in the UK. Manufacturer JTI, responsible for the Ploom brand, says heated tobacco was worth £105m last year in traditional retail.

More than 20.3 million heated tobacco units were sold, according to data from market analyst Circana, equating to a growth rate of 20.8% year on year.

Tobacco sticks Philip Morris International, manufacturer of the market-leading IQOS device and Heets tobacco sticks, says retailers looking to tap into the sector should stock a variety of products.

“No single smoke-free product will meet the preferences of every adult nicotine-user, so having a multi-category portfolio of smoke-free alternatives is the best way convenience retailers can meet the needs of their adult customers,” it says.

“While the disposable e-vapor segment has experienced rapid growth in the convenience channel, the heat-not-burn category offers convenience retailers a real tobacco alternative that many adult nicotine users may prefer to vaping – if they don’t quit tobacco and nicotine products completely. IQOS heats real tobacco – offering a true tobacco taste and cigarette-like satisfaction. That’s why the majority of smokers who trial it switch away from smoking for good.”

Better value In the current economic climate, affordability of smoking and smoking alterative products has risen up the agenda. Philip Morris says its Heets sticks cost less than half the price of an average pack of cigarettes, meaning IQOS gives nicotine-users access to a smoke-free alternative at a fraction of the price of smoking.

“In fact,” says external affairs director Duncan Cunningham, “retailers agreed that smokers would prioritise affordability above all else when choosing a smoke-free alternative this year – with roughly half believing customers would select the cheapest products available, followed by those products offering the best overall value for money (18%).

Smoke-free “However, the same survey identified potential barriers to switching for those adults who would otherwise continue to smoke, with almost a quarter (23%) of retailers accepting that smokers may simply trade down to less expensive tobacco brands or reduce the rate at which they smoked each day.

Despite these challenges, I feel encouraged that seven in 10 convenience retailers will look to expand their smoke-free products to offer adult smokers better, more-affordable alternatives to cigarettes in 2023.”

Familiar experience A new launch from IQOS was imminent as Independent Retail News went to press, while JTI last year unveiled Ploom X, its latest upgrade.

“Representing the next generation of heated tobacco, it offers existing adult smokers an alternative but familiar experience,” says JTI’s reduced-risk products director, Victoria Lopez Aguas.

The device is available to consumers via the Ploom website and from accredited retailers across London. Its Evo tobacco sticks come in eight flavours, including the top-selling Bronze (tobacco), Amber (smooth tobacco) and Green (menthol). Evo tobacco sticks are available for London retailers within the M25.

Victoria Lopez Aguas, reduced-risk products director at JTI, offers the following advice to independent convenience retailers:

1. Have devices readily available for in-store demonstrations: JTI recommends that accredited retailers have demonstration devices available to enable their staff to handle the products and be comfortable explaining how they work. These demonstration devices also allow consumers to observe the simplicity of the device and feel fully informed before buying the product. It’s important that retailers and their staff are aware of what sets heated tobacco products apart from vapes, namely that they heat tobacco rather than e-liquid for a more authentic tobacco taste. 2. Knowledge is key: Having up-to-date knowledge on the latest products is key to offering a good level of customer service. To confidently talk about new products, retailers and their staff should use all the platforms available to them – including JTI’s trade website 3. Make use of business advisers: JTI business advisers are allocated small, dedicated catchment areas where they are responsible for every trading channel within it – from independents to key multiple grocers and wholesale. This means they can provide a more bespoke service so they can identify commercial opportunities with their trade partners to an even greater extent. 4. Ensure consistent product availability: The category is likely to continue to grow, particularly as smokers look for more cost-effective alternatives. Therefore, it is important that retailers always maintain good stock levels. 5. Establish clear product visibility: Give the category a clear ‘home’ by displaying heated tobacco devices on a back wall solution, so the customer has a visible choice of nicotine products.

The heated tobacco category is seeing continued growth, says wholesaler Bestway:

❚ The category represented 18.6% of the total reduced-risk product market in the UK in 2021, growing at 86% year on year. ❚ IQOS is the UK’s number one product in the heat-not-burn category. Heated tobacco delivers a real tobacco taste and cigarette-like satisfaction that is more affordable to the consumer. ❚ While not risk-free, switching completely to heated tobacco presents less risk to health than continuing to smoke cigarettes. Source: Bestway category advice portal

Tagged with: heated tobacco JTI UK philip morris

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Heat wave | In focus: Heated tobacco

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