Circle K: Juul ‘Too Successful’?

Exec applauds e-cig maker’s decision to pull certain flavors from stores
Photograph by CSP Staff

LAVAL, Quebec -- Saying he supported an electronic-cigarette manufacturer’s decision to restrict the sale of certain vape-pod flavors, the head of the Circle K convenience-store chain specifically mentioned that the Juul brand may have become “too successful.”

During Alimentation Couche-Tard’s Nov. 28 investor call, Brian Hannasch, president and CEO of the Laval, Quebec-based parent company of Circle K, said Juul products have become so successful that they have “clearly ended up in the hands of too many underaged individuals.”

San Francisco-based Juul Labs announced plans in November to stop supplying flavors such as mango and cucumber to brick-and-mortar retailers in response to concerns from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over underage use and access to the devices.

“So I do applaud [Juul’s] move to remove flavors,” Hannasch said. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

Hannasch said Circle K’s next step is to collaborate with its business partners to understand how they can bring those reduced-risk products back into the stores while ensuring those devices only end up with consumers of legal age. “Overall, despite the short-term bump, I think we’re optimistic about the future of reduced-risk and alternative tobacco products,” he said.

When asked about recent FDA proposals to limit the sale of flavored e-cigarettes to age-restricted areas of the c-store, but at the same time, not restricting 18-and-older retailers such as tobacco and vape shops, Hannasch balked. “We don’t support any FDA moves to favor one channel over another,” he said.

Hannasch also mentioned the heat-not-burn device from New York-based Phillip Morris International called iQOS, expressing hope for its success in the United States if or when it receives FDA approval. “We’re seeing strong results in some of our countries in Europe of alternative products,” he said. “So again, we continue to be optimistic but our focus today is making sure that we’re collaborating with those suppliers and making sure that those products end up in the hands of [legal] age customers not underage customers.”

Laval, Quebec-based Couche-Tard is No. 2 in CSP’s 2018 Top 202 ranking of convenience-store chains by number of company-owned retail outlets. Its network includes about 8,350 c-stores in the United States under the Circle K, Holiday and other brands. Through CrossAmerica Partners LP, Allentown, Pa., it supplies fuel to about 1,300 U.S. locations. It has a total worldwide network of about 16,000 stores.

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