6 Insights Into Flavored Tobacco Products

Angel Abcede, Senior Editor/Tobacco, CSP

Marlboro Menthol cigarettes

CHICAGO -- With San Francisco-area lawmakers considering bans on menthol cigarettes—probably the most substantive tobacco flavor in the category—the issue of cigarette, cigar and e-liquid flavors may be leaving a bad taste in the mouths of retailers.

Expressing frustration over the proposed tobacco ordinances in San Francisco, Oakland and other Bay Area municipalities that would ban the sale of flavored cigarettes, including menthol, Tom Robinson, president, Robinson Oil, Santa Clara, Calif., said lawmakers are basing their decisions on facts that are “either old or false.” When California’s legal age to buy tobacco products was 18, it was easier for minors to get their older peers to buy and give them tobacco products. “The legal age in California is now 21,” Robinson told CSP Daily News. “Which means these [lawmakers] don’t want adults to have a choice and they want to punish local retailers.”

That said, not all the news is bad. The recent confirmation of Dr. Scott Gottlieb (who seems open to reduced-risk smoking alternatives) to head the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the continued popularity of flavored cigars and e-liquids paint a more encouraging picture about the future taste of tobacco.

Here are six flavor-related developments happening in the tobacco category …

1. Legal wrangling

Scales and gavel

The FDA and Reynolds American Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C., have been in a legal tussle over the use of research noting the potentially harmful effects of menthol. While those issues must still work through the courts, the FDA’s own internal report on the matter seems inclined to side against the future of menthol, say analysts. However, efforts to ban menthol products on the federal level have not emerged to date.

2. FDA’s new commissioner

Dr. Scott Gottlieb

During his confirmation hearings as the FDA’s new commissioner, Gottlieb was noncommittal regarding flavors for electronic cigarettes. When expressing concern over the lure e-cigarette flavors have over young people, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., asked Gottlieb about flavors like “Gummy bears? Cookies and cream?” Gottlieb responded: “I recognize there is a line here somewhere and I don’t know where that line gets drawn. I think that line needs to get drawn by people who are experts in evaluating that science, and I want to support that.”

3. Cigar flavors

Macanudos cigars

In a recently published study, London-based Technavio named its top five vendors in the global, flavored-cigar market:

General Cigar. The Richmond, Va.-based company is a manufacturer and marketer of premium cigars. It holds a portfolio of brands like Macanudo, Cohiba, Partagas, La Gloria Cubana, CAO, Hoyo de Monterrey, Excalibur, Foundry and others.

Drew Estate. The Miami-based company specializes in manufacturing and supplying various brands of cigars. It has been operating as a subsidiary of Swisher International. Its key brands include Acid Cigars, Acid Krush Classic Cigars, Undercrown Shade, Undercrown Cigars, Liga Privada No. 9 Cigars, Liga Privada T52 Cigars and Liga Privada Unico Serie Cigars.

Gurkha Cigars. Known for its limited-edition release of luxury cigars and rare tobacco products with aesthetically appealing packaging, Gurkha Cigars, Tamarac, Fla., is focusing on expanding its portfolio of luxury cigars and incorporating different flavors to attract consumers.

Imperial Tobacco. With business in countries like the United Kingdom, Poland, Russia and Ukraine, Imperial Tobacco, Bristol, U.K., includes three types of brands: growth brands such as Gauloises Blondes, Davidoff, JPS, West and Fine; specialist brands such as Style, Gitanes (cigarettes), Drum Route 66 (fine-cut tobacco) and Golden Virginia; and portfolio brands.

Miami Cigar & Company. The Miami-based, full-service, premium-cigar distributor holds brands like La Aurora, Tatiana and Nestor Miranda.

4. Top cigar flavors

Hand-rolled cigars

Here are the top cigar flavors in convenience stores by sales volume, as reported in CSP’s Category Management Handbook 2017:

  1. Sweet
  2. Tropical
  3. Grape
  4. Wine
  5. White grape
  6. Pineapple
  7. Blue
  8. Blueberry
  9. Mango
  10. Cherry

Sources: The Nielsen Co., Swedish Match North America

5. Top e-cigarette brands in c-stores


Here are the top-selling e-cigarette brands in c-stores, according to CSP’s Category Management Handbook 2017:

  1. Vuse
  2. MarkTen
  3. Blu
  4. Logic
  5. Juul

Sources: The Nielsen Co., Swedish Match North America

6. Popular e-liquid flavors

Vaping products

With 140 blends on its roster, Vape Wild makes e-liquid flavors categorized as breakfast blends, drinks, candies, desserts, fruits, menthols and tobaccos, with notables including Smurf Cake (a blueberry cheesecake blend) and Sweet Complexity (cream, banana, cinnamon, sugar, vanilla and rum). In a survey involving 35,000 respondents, EcigaretteReviewed, Tustin, Calif., named the Addison, Texas-based e-liquid company No. 1 in its 2016 poll of e-juice brands.