Following last week’s investigation into the rise of challenger brands in the UK vaping market, Priyanka Jethwa looks at the category trends retailers need to be aware of

In a world riddled with legislation, technical jargon and every supplier telling you why you should stock their brand, it’s important for independent retailers to understand the vaping category.

With three million vapers in the UK and the category predicted to be worth £2.5bn by 2025, according to British American Tobacco (BAT), ignoring vaping can be detrimental to sales. 

RN spoke to a panel of experts from leading tobacco manufacturers including BAT, Vapouriz and Blu, alongside pioneering scientists dedicated to developing reduced-risk products to uncover what shoppers are looking for, and what the channel needs to know. 

Lifestyle demands don’t just extend to how vapers look, but also how people view vaping as a reduced-risk category

Lifestyle

People love to look good, and in recent months this has been adopted by the vaping market as more shoppers want sleek designs akin to fashion accessories that match their lifestyle. 

In its most recent collaboration, BAT teamed up with fashion boutique House of Holland at London Fashion Week to showcase its Vype ePen 3 in a range of five designs, alongside vaping accessories, including a neck wallet, body harness and a clutch bag. 

While stocking a neck wallet may be pushing it a little too far for independent retailers’ shoppers, it demonstrates the growing interest among shoppers looking for stylish technology that goes beyond practical uses and taps into lifestyle demands. 

Lifestyle demands don’t just extend to how vapers look, but also how people view vaping as a reduced-risk category, alongside the impact it has on the environment. 

Chris Proctor, chief scientific officer at BAT, says: “Over the past couple of years, we have needed to expand our scientific approaches to look at other potential benefits of next-generation products, such as its reduced impact on indoor air quality and improved oral hygiene compared to smoking.

“We are also exploring new methodologies for post-market surveillance and population modelling of the potential long-term effect of the new products.”

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Cannabidiol (CBD) 

Cannabidiol, most commonly known as CBD, is an ingredient in cannabis derived from the hemp plant and has been hitting the headlines as the next big trend. 

To sell CBD e-liquids, the oil must contain only 0.2% THC, which is the controlled substance that generates the high people get from cannabis. CBD isn’t known to cause psychoactive effects and therefore appeals to shoppers who don’t want to get high, but believe it possesses other benefits, such as pain relief. 

Colin O’Donnell, owner of CBD vape brand CBDeaze, says in the past six months there has been an increase in CBD products being brought to the market, from shampoos and creams to dog food, and this trend is expected to continue and grow. 

“People are turning to new avenues of smoking and, in five years’ time, this is what will be all the rage – it’s already happened in the US, and we’ll soon catch up,” he says. “It’s something worth looking into now.” 

Open and closed systems

Did you know there are more than 40,000 vaping products subject to EUTPD II regulation in the UK? The category is huge and there is no way retailers can be expected to stock everything. However, what you can do on a rudimentary level is offer the bestselling products in two key formats: an open system and a closed system. 

An open system allows the user a more customisable vaping experience, as it has a separate mouthpiece, a refillable tank and can be fitted with different atomisers and batteries. 

But for first-time buyers, Nigel Hardy, head of next-generation products at BAT, suggests closed systems are what retailers should recommend. “Closed systems, such as Vype ePen 3, work with disposable cartridges prefilled with e-liquid. They are convenient, easy to use and fuss-free – perfect for first-time users.”

Tracey Longbottom, FMCG director at e-liquid company Vape Dinner Lady, says closed systems are also more discreet as there are fewer components to play with.

Nicotine salts 

When attending the Vaper Expo in Birmingham earlier this year, one thing that was hard to avoid was the amount of innovation and investment in nicotine salts. 

Nicotine salts are designed to give smokers a more intense hit of nicotine as the substance absorbs into the body faster than regular e-liquids. 

Duncan Cunningham, head of corporate & legal affairs at Blu, says nicotine salts, such as those found in MyBlu Intense Liquidpods, provide an experience that more closely matches smoking a traditional cigarette. Independent store owners who sell tobacco therefore have an opportunity to branch out into a new sector and help smokers who are looking to switch to vaping. 

“In the US – the biggest vaping market – pod systems represent a key growth category, highlighting the potential here in the UK,” he adds. 

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E-liquids 

One of the promotional advantages the vaping category has is that retailers can make use of PoS material to create appealing displays without worrying about the red tape tied to tobacco. 

Most vaping brands now offer dedicated PoS, including stands and posters to highlight products, and with e-liquids driving value sales by 39%, it’s an area retailers should look to shout about in store. 

Ben Mison, head of sales at Vapouriz, says e-liquids are definitely worth the counter space, but it
is about finding the right-sized stand to fit your store so it doesn’t look cluttered. 

In fact, brands such as Vapouriz offer around a 64% margin on individual e-liquids, and around a 56% margin on kits, proving there is definitely scope for additional profit within the segment.