From 'Fad' to 'Game Changer' to ... ?

More room for growth in e-cigarette category

Melissa Vonder Haar, Freelance Writer

Vito Maurici

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- "A year ago, I asked the question, 'Are electronic cigarettes a fad?'." said NJOY's Vito Maurici at Convenience Retailing University (CRU) 2013 in Glendale, Ariz., in January. "A year later, we're asking the question, 'Are electronic cigarettes a game changer?' I wonder what the question will be next year."

During his Growth in E-Cigarettes session, Maurici, the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company's senior vice president of sales and distribution, went through an overview of the category, focusing on growth in the convenience store channel; the history of electronic cigarettes; hot topics in potential state and federal regulations; and the "wild, wild west" of the current competitive landscape created by the more than 200 e-cigarette companies in the United States.

Even with so many hot-button issues, there are lots of reason for retailers to be excited: Dating back to 2010, e-cigarette sales have doubled with each passing year and are on track to be a $1 billion business in 2013.

And there's even more room for growth: "According to the CDC, four out of every 10 smokers are looking for an alternative," said Maurici. "That makes almost 20 million people spending $38 billion a year on products they wish there was an alternative to."

However, because e-cigarettes are still in their infancy, many smokers have complained about a lack of consistency compared with traditional tobacco cigarettes. Maurici believes NJOY's latest offering is the answer to such complaints.

"It's impossible to discuss the category and ignore what's happened with NJOY Kings," he said, dubbing Kings "the next generation of electronic cigarettes."

NJOY Kings addresses many issues consumers had with prior electronic cigarettes, he said. The new product features a soft filter, a lighter weight, a realistic ash tip, an improved flavor profile and innovative packaging. NJOY is supporting the product with ample marketing and promotion, including a TV commercial, which Maurici shared with the audience.

And despite the accolades for Kings, NJOY will continue to seek out new ways to grow the category. "NJOY's mission is to 'obsolete' cigarettes," Maurici said. "It keeps us focused on exceeding the adult smoker's needs every single day."

For more coverage of CRU 2013, see the March issue of CSP magazine.