Vape Pods, Pouches Lead Tobacco Growth

Researcher pinpoints category heroes during CSP forum
Photograph by Francisco Gonzalez

ROSEMONT, Ill. Vaping cartridges and tobacco-free nicotine pouches have been category standouts so far in 2019, according to an industry researcher speaking at a CSP tobacco forum.

Even taking into account San Francisco-based Juul pulling flavored-vaping cartridges (or pods) last fall, e-cigarettes and their components continue to increase in both volume and sales for c-stores, said Don Burke, senior vice president of Management Science Associates (MSA), an industry research firm based in Pittsburgh.

Cartridge volume grew 171.7% by serving units at convenience stores for the year ending June 29, compared to the previous year, Burke said. Growth at all retail outlets for cartridges was 160.6% year over year, with c-stores representing 78% of cartridge distribution across all channels.

Although vaping products represent only 5% of the total nicotine business, they continue to be a fast-growing tobacco subcategory, Burke said, despite Juul pulling four flavored pods late last year. Volume in cartridges, he said, saw a spike in orders prior to the announced withdrawal. A decline occurred after Juul stopped supplying the products, and then cartridges of tobacco and mint saw a significant uptick, which essentially replaced the lost volumes.

The only other products surpassing vaping cartridges in the past year, Burke said, were tobacco-free nicotine products, which can take many forms, including pouches, lozenges and even nicotine-infused toothpicks. These products saw a 237% increase in consumer units year over year, with 91% of that distribution going through convenience stores, he said.

Orally consumed nicotine products represented 0.1% of the total nicotine business, Burke said.

Unfortunately, the brighter news for vapor and oral nicotine stood against the larger declines in cigarettes. Representing 80.5% of the total nicotine business, cigarettes declined 4.8% in c-stores for the year ending June 29, compared to the previous year, Burke said.

MSA derives its data from shipment orders between manufacturers and retailers, Burke said.

About 50 suppliers and retailers attended CSP’s Behind the Counter Forum, which was held July 30-Aug. 1 in the Chicago suburb of Rosemont, Ill.

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