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By Liz Wells in Tobacco 18th July 2018

Tobacco is a category that underpins the day-to-day business of many convenience retailers, because it generates shopper loyalty and also stimulates secondary purchase of a range of other products.

Retailers have had to deal with a succession of challenges to this key area of business in recent years. The first was the display ban, which put all brands out of view of shoppers, which was followed more recently (May 2017) by the European Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD2) introducing standardised packaging and minimum pack sizes.

During this period of constantly changing trading conditions, retailers have also had to contend with the growth of illicit tobacco as shoppers seek out cheaper options at a time when regular duty increases have continued to push up retail prices of legitimate cigarette brands.

Despite the many issues facing the category, tobacco still generates massive business for convenience operators, who also value its role in attracting regular shoppers to their outlets. This time around, impulse business on factory-made cigarettes alone added up to £6.5bn in the 12-month period, although this was a 7.7% drop on the category’s performance the previous year. Cigarette sales through all retail outlets in the same period added up to £11.6bn, although that also declined by 4.6%. It means impulse outlets accounted for well over 50% of total business in the 12-month period, which underlines the key role this category plays at the heart of convenience retailing.

The roll-your-own (RYO) category has benefited as regular duty increases have pushed up the retail price of cigarettes and encouraged more smokers to explore cheaper alternatives.

RYO has enjoyed several years of growth as more shoppers have switched. This time around, RYO business through impulse outlets amounted to £1.4bn, which was 3.8% up on the previous year. Once again, this is a big share of a business, worth £2.5bn in total and highlights how important RYO has become for convenience operators.

Among the top 10 cigarette brands, JTI’s Sterling retains top spot once again with total business of £766m, although the brand was down 13.3% during the period. Next up is Players from Imperial Tobacco, which moves up one place in the rankings from last year with sales of £734m, which was 42.8% up – the fastest growth rate of any of the top 10 brands.

Another major mover is Benson & Hedges Blue, which has surged to third from ninth place last time around following a 39.6% sales increase, giving it impulse business worth £479m.

Nielsen Comment
It has been almost a year since the European Tobacco Products Directive (EUTPD2) regulations came into effect and it has already made an impact on the impulse channel. The new pricing and minimum pack sizes contributed to the already declining category in value terms and in impulse, cigarette sales saw a 7.7% decline compared with last year. The impulse channel represents more than half of the sales of the category but has suffered more than the total market, which decreased by only 4.6%. The impact from price increases has been harder for premium brands in this channel as consumers have switched to cheaper brands, leading to category devaluation for cigarettes. The low-priced brands are the ones driving most of the growth in cigarettes. If smokers were already price-driven, this trait intensified after last year’s category transformation.

Paul Lecomte, client manager

Mayfair drops from second last year to fourth place this time around following a 31% decline, although the brand is still worth some £396m to impulse retailers. It remains well ahead of fifth-placed Marlboro, which was down 13.5% but is still a major brand worth £365m in terms of impulse sales.

Sovereign Blue is another brand that has moved up the rankings, thanks to a 19.3% value increase to shift into sixth place. Carlton, Lambert & Butler and JPS all lost sales during the 12-month period, but Lambert & Butler Blue increased business by 18.3% to move into the top 10.

In terms of the top 10 roll-your-own brands, there were some very strong performances among the leading players in this category. Amber Leaf is very much the dominant brand, accounting for £457m-worth of retail business, so it is most definitely the must-stock choice for most retailers, even though sales dipped by 10.3% this time around.

The runner-up in this category, Golden Virginia, also fell back in terms of sales value, but it still generates annual business of £281m, so is another brand most retailers need to stock. Gold Leaf retains third spot, but it had a very good year with sales surging by 39.4%, giving it impulse business of £182m.

Fourth-ranked Cutters Choice increased sales by 6% to stay well ahead of the biggest riser of the top 10, Sterling, which was up 73.2% during the year to strengthen its position in fifth place. There were also good performances from other brands including Pall Mall, which was up 11.5% during the year, Holborn (up 10.5%) and Players (up 41.2%). Tobacco company JTI introduced two brand extensions to its Sterling Dual cigarette brand at the start of 2018. The new lines tapped into the growing capsule, sector which now accounts for 13% of total cigarette sales in the UK.

The Sterling Dual Double Capsule Kingsize was available in two flavours, peppermint and spearmint, and was introduced with an RRP of £8.65. Stephane Berset, head of marketing UK at JTI, said: “The capsule value segment has grown considerably in the last year, and we’re excited to provide retailers with innovative new products to take advantage of expanding markets.” JTI followed up in April 2018 by extending its Benson & Hedges Blue range with the addition of a new capsule variant, B&H Superkings Blue Dual, retailing at £8.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris International placed ads in several national newspapers at the start of 2018 proclaiming its New Year’s resolution was “to stop selling cigarettes in the UK”. The message was: “Philip Morris is known for cigarettes. Every year, many smokers give them up. Now it’s our turn.” The company also said it would offer support to local authority cessation services.

Nielsen Comment
It may have been a difficult period for tobacco, but EUTPD2 does not seem to be hindering growth for RYO tobacco. The category keeps capturing sales from cigarettes, thanks to its more attractive price-point, and has managed to grow both in value (up 6.7%), which is understandable after the price increase, but also in volume (up 2.5%), proving its popularity. The impulse channel is important to the category, as it accounts for 56% of sales and continues to grow, albeit at a slower rate than the total market. This is mainly due to the decrease of the premium or medium-priced brands in impulse. Increasingly price-conscious shoppers seem to be trading cigarettes for value RYO brands, leading to the growth of low-price brands. This explains the decrease faced by leading brands such as Golden Virginia and Amber Leaf.
– Paul Lecomte, client manager

Top 20 tobacco By Liz Wells in Tobacco 18th July 2018 Tobacco is a category that underpins the day-to-day business of many convenience retailers, because it generates shopper loyalty and also

Leading brands of rolling tobacco in Great Britain 2019, by number of users

Throughout Great Britain, the most popular brand of rolling tobacco amongst consumers was Amber Leaf. In 2019, the Japan Tobacco owned product had an estimated 1.8 million users. This was 600 thousand more users than the second most popular brand, Golden Virginia.

Market value

The market value of the tobacco industry in the UK has seen an overall increase since 2015. By 2019, it had increased by just under 3 percent to reach a value of approximately 21.7 billion euros. This is expected to increase slightly further by 2020

Tobacco consumption

Those who used rolling tobacco tended to use 25 grams or less per fortnight. In comparison, an estimated 1.4 million people consumed 50 grams or more.

When looking at pre rolled cigarette users, an estimated 1.6 million consumed about 10 a day. Despite the health risks of smoking, almost 500 thousand people smoked more than 30 cigarettes per day across the nation.

Throughout Great Britain, the most popular brand of rolling tobacco amongst consumers was Amber Leaf. ]]>