Vuse is wasting no time getting their parent company RJ Reynolds to the top of the electronic cigarette market, quickly outdoing Blu eCig. This race by Big Tobacco couldn’t have been foreseen when they were all fighting against the ecigarette years ago. But as we have learned, or more like something we ought to know already, companies will go where the money is.
That’s why Lorillard bought into Blu eCig so quickly and flooded the market with product. Since then it has been a scramble for the other two, RJ Reynolds and Altria, to make their own mark. While the MarkTen brand from Altria still struggles to gain a following, RJ Reynolds has effectively used Vuse to barrel into the marketplace and make a major impact.
What kind of impact? Well, a year after the national rollout of Vuse, the brand has vaulted itself to the top as of the new Nielsen research data that covers a period up until May 16th. The Big Tobacco electronic cigarette has captured 35.7% of the US market share, being spread out over more than 100,000 retail outlets. The former number one, Blu eCig, came in at second with 22.7%, with Logic e cig rounded out the top three with 13.8%. While it is true that these top spots have been cycled out yearly, this time it feels like we have a little more permanence with Vuse at the top.
Part of that feeling comes from yet more data. In the same research, Vuse was shown to capture an astounding 46.9% unit market share. While the “market share” designation counts the revenue captured for the market, the “unit market share” calculates the number units actually sold within the market. What this essentially means is that Vuse is bringing in 35.7% of the dollar sales, but is actually selling 46.9% of the ecig products on the shelf. That is a massive number, especially if those people buying are sticking with them and not moving on to MarkTen from Altria or Blu eCig from Lorillard, or the many ecig tanks options out there from top brands.
Vuse Doing Well, But Ecig Tanks Unaccounted
By the look of it, we have to assume there was some relevance to how confident Vuse was when it first launched, with RJ Reynolds CEO Susan Cameron calling it a “game changer.”
Still, we question if any cigalike, whether it be Vuse or our top ranked Green Smoke, is going to stick to the top of these charts.
It may be true that Vuse is taking a massive chunk of the sales from retail shops, but most of these stores don’t carry ecig tanks and eliquid.
Given the enormous rise in the popularity of open systems of the past few years, we understand that even the Nielson data only represents part of the market.
Cigalikes can be a great way in for a lot of people looking to make the switch, but not all of those consumers will stick with the more basic and easy to use 2-piece system.
Whether Vuse is able to buck that trend and keep their customers will be one of the major things to watch in the coming year or longer.
With their strong entrance into the ecig market, and the pending buyout/merger of Lorillard, it seems like RJ Reynolds is making a major move to overtake Altria, the biggest of the Big Tobacco companies. Altria owns Philip Morris, who makes Marlboro cigarettes, easily the biggest name brand in the tobacco cigarette market. Altria has enjoyed a big market share advantage due to the domination of their Malboro brand, but the evolution of smoking to vaping must have it worried. Not only has their launch of MarkTen not caught on, they haven’t yet been able to leverage either of their brands (the other being Green Smoke, which they bought last year) for pole position in this emerging race.
RJ Reynolds Making a Move To Pole Position?
If that may have seemed like small potatoes in the recent past to the tobacco giant, they might be beginning to understand the true impact it can make.
It was but a year ago that Wells Fargo tobacco analyst Bonnie Herzog predicted that Altria owned Philip Morris could see its industry leading market share of 47% drop to 32% by 2023.
In that same span, she sees RJ Reynolds climbing from the 25% it has now to as high as 36%.
All of this was before Vuse made its move in the burgeoning ecig market, and we wonder what Bonnie would have to say now. Does Altria have an accelerated fall from grace in its near future?
Whether it does or doesn’t, what we care about is how all of this may impact vapers like you and us. Millions of ex-smokers have found an alternative in electronic cigarettes, and many of those were happy to be rid of Big Tobacco’s influence.
It doesn’t seem like we are going to see that, at least not in the near future, but we can see what type of disruption the ecig market is causing. In fact, the term “disruptive technology” doesn’t seem to be able to fit any better than it does when speaking of electronic cigarettes.
These little devices have gone as far as changing the economics of billion dollar tobacco companies who aren’t used to budging an inch. That fills us with a sense of pride, but we know that the true battles are ahead as the ecigarette revolution rolls along, changing everything we might have thought we knew about tobacco and its future. Even as Vuse, Blu eCig and other fight for top positions, we wonder where things will be in only a few years and if we will look back at this period as a defining one in the history of the electronic cigarette. Let’s hope that we’ll look back on it as fondly as we do the decreasing power of tobacco companies.