In an exclusive interview, we speak to JTI’s Head of Reduced Risk Products Nick Geens. Here, he explains the key market trends retailers need to know and the new product launches that can help retailers tap into them.

What are the key trends in next-generation nicotine products that independent retailers need to know?

Nick Geens: There are two big trends in the market at the moment. The first is the growth of pod-mods, or closed tanks. These are small, compact vaping products that are convenient and easy to use with pods of e-liquid that clip into the device, as opposed to the previous generation of devices that were open tanks that you had to fill with separate bottles of e-liquid.

Pod-mods have really grown in the convenience sector in the past 12 to 18 months. They are a great opportunity for retailers to move into the category as they’re very easy to understand and sell, and easy for consumers to use. It’s better for both sides.

The second biggest trend is nicotine pouches. These are tobacco-free nicotine pouches that you put under your upper or lower lip. There are a lot of new launches happening in this area. These products are very popular in Scandinavia, and it seems more companies are looking into this category for the UK.

How can convenience stores get the most out of these trends?

It starts with stocking the right products. It’s key to offer lines that align with the trends that are presenting themselves today. For example, we have Logic Compact, which is our pod-mod device.

We launched it last year and have expanded into the independent and symbols channel. Since June 2019, our field sales team have been visiting stores and presenting the product to retailers.

Additionally, we launched Nordic Spirit, a range of tobacco-free nicotine pouches in 2019, and our reps will continue to visit stores with the range this year.

What are the different types of customers retailers need to keep in mind when it comes to building their vaping range?

Every consumer who walks into a store will have different questions and needs.

The top line is, there’s the more experienced and the less experienced vaper. The less experienced are those just entering the sector – they’ve heard about vaping and want to give it a try. For these customers, it’s key that the retailers can speak about the products with some level of confidence, and offer entry-level advice.

The customer can then move on later to more advanced devices and different e-liquids to suit their vaping needs.

More experienced adult vapers have already had the basics explained to them, so it’s about being able to offer what they need. They’ll come in looking for a specific e-liquid, for example, and you need to be able to offer them the brand and the product that they like.

What kinds of questions should retailers expect from their customers when it comes to their vaping products, and how can they best answer them?

What is key is that the retailer works on their knowledge and reads up about the vaping category. We encourage retailers to go to JTI Advance, which is our retailer portal hosting information about the category.

We also recommend speaking to reps – our field sales team have a lot of experience on the category. The more the retailer can get clued up on vaping, the better they will become at selling vaping products to consumers.

Of course, it’s important to pass this knowledge on. It doesn’t help if the store owner knows a lot about the category but their staff don’t. It’s vital everyone working in the store has an understanding of the products and how they work.

What are the key rules and vaping regulations retailers need to know about when developing their range?

In general, it’s a category that is shaped by quite complex regulation. There are so many rules and recommendations in place, the best thing I can suggest is retailers stick with trusted brands and companies.

There are hundreds of vape brands and products out there, but if retailers stick with the well-known names, they will be in a much more comfortable space, and know they’re fully in line with the right regulations and avoid products that might have taken shortcuts.

The key thing for us is preventing underage sales. It is really important staff training is done with everyone in the store. Retailers are on the front line in preventing minors getting hold of vaping and e-cig products. We always recommend challenge 25 as the starting point – that means requesting ID from anyone who looks under the age of 25.

For more information on the vaping category, retailers can visit the recently updated JTI Advance website or speak to a local Logic sales representative

Read more: Vaping trends – 5 opportunities for retailers