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Cigarette filter broadens tobacco options

BY Seth Mendelson

Seeking to offer adult consumers more options in the tobacco category, Smokey Mountain Chew is introducing Airio, a pressurized filter that company officials say removes about 66% of the tar and other chemicals from a cigarette.

According to Dave Savoca, president of the Sandy Hook, Conn.-based company, Airio is the world’s smallest cigarette filter, measuring less than a half-inch in size. Using cyclonic action, it is designed to remove chemicals from cigarettes and can help adult consumers with cigarette management or cessation. Airio Micro Filters are a patent-pending design and are shipping from the company’s new manufacturing facility in Coppell, Texas. A 20-filter pack has a suggested retail price of $1.99. Smokey Mountain is offering retailers a 12-pack display — buy 10 packs and get two packs free promotion, Savoca said.

“We are very excited about this product and its potential for us and retailers,” Savoca said. “We think it will bring incremental sales to the tobacco category. There are a lot of consumers who are seeking high-tech vaping alternatives. But there are also a lot of consumers seeking alternatives within the tobacco category itself.” 

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Consumers aiming to improve pet health

BY Mark Hamstra

Consumers are increasingly weighing the health consequences of all of their purchasing decisions, including products for their four-legged family members.

From food and treats to toys and grooming products, shoppers are seeking items for their pets that offer the same healthy attributes as the products they buy for themselves.

“Without a doubt, as pet ownership expands, many consumers, especially those who have embraced a healthier lifestyle, want to be sure that their pets live healthier and longer lives,” said John Vasone, national sales manager at ConairPRO Pet. “They are looking at products that are safe and healthy.”

The trend toward more thoughtful care for pets comes as consumers increase their spending overall on the category. According to IRI, multi-outlet sales of pet products rose 3.2% for the 52-week period ended Aug. 13, to $4.3 billion.

The rise of the millennial generation is propelling these trends, as consumers in the 18 to 34-year-old age group have become a formidable force in the pet products category. Furthermore, they will spend much more in the years to come, according to a 2016 report from Packaged Facts titled “Millennials as Pet Market Consumers.” About 1-in-3 pet owners are millennials, the report stated.

These young consumers are more concerned about maintaining pet health than older generations, and also are more likely to trust themselves to take responsibility for some aspects of pet care, such as oral hygiene, according to the report.

One way to appeal to these pet-owning millennials is to offer an assortment of grooming tools, said Vasone. Frequent grooming using the right tools can help pet owners maintain the health and appearance of their pets’ coats, he said.

Consumers also are carefully reading labels to weed out products that contain ingredients they consider harmful or unhealthy.

For example, grooming products supplier Wahl seeks to appeal to health-conscious pet owners with a line of shampoos made with essential plant oils, contain no parabens and are pH-balanced.

“We are designing these to be safe and easy for your dog,” said Shay Moeller, product manager, North American consumer pet, at Wahl Clipper. “They rinse out easily, and the residue doesn’t stay in the coat or the fur.”

Brands vs. private labels
One of the keys for retailers to succeed in the pet category, according to Moeller, is to offer consumers enough variety to give the category density and allow shoppers to assess the relative value of the items.

“If people go into a store and they see only one grooming tool, or one brush, or one type of shampoo, they tend not to shop those categories,” he said.

While many retailers have embraced private labels in the pet category, Moeller said retail drug chains have seen sales gains in this area of the store by offering a “good-better” product selection with a private-label item and a Wahl-branded product.

“We are finding that if you put in a brand, your category dollars go up,” he said. “If you have one SKU of private-label shampoo, then put in one branded shampoo.”

Branded products help lend credibility to a retailer’s pet category, suppliers said.

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E-cigarettes, tobacco-free products offer smokers alternatives

BY Seth Mendelson

When it comes to tobacco sales, it is all about the angle you are looking from.

For those who remain optimistic about the category, they can point to individual unit sales of nearly $250 billion annually and price points that can hover around $10 a pack. They also can say that while the number of users is down dramatically over the last 20 years, the most loyal cigarette smokers continue to purchase the product at a steady rate and, surveys find, will continue to do so for years to come.

Finally, they also note the dramatic growth of e-cigarettes and the smaller, but still significant, growth of smokeless tobacco products. It is enough for one retailer to say, “we do not care where the sales are coming from as long as they keep coming in. We make money off of this category.”

Of course, the tobacco category is tainted by years of bad press and health studies that show that smoking is a leading cause of a number of different illnesses, including lung cancer, heart disease and other lung and circulatory diseases. They note that fewer consumers want tobacco products for these and other health reasons and for the significant increase in price points, due mainly to increased federal and state taxes on cigarettes.

The bottom line, some note, is that smoking traditional cigarettes is not cool anymore, and some shoppers are so vehemently against tobacco they will not shop at stores that carry these items.

So what is a retailer to do?

CVS, for one, made a well-publicized decision to end all tobacco sales in its stores a few years back. Other retailers have cut down on the size of their tobacco sections, and it is pretty difficult to find a mass retailer that publicizes the fact that they are still in the business of selling tobacco products. Some merchants that have stayed in the business have placed their tobacco departments safely behind a service counter, allaying the fears that minors can buy them and pretty much stopping any consumer pilferage.

Enter the hoopla over e-cigarettes. The booming category is producing solid double-digit dollar sales growth, despite concerns from some health groups that it is no safer than traditional cigarettes. But, many e-cigarette manufacturers counter by saying their products are a healthier alternative to tobacco-based products and can serve as a transition for someone looking to quit the category completely.

Regardless, the category is extremely hot. Some industry figures estimate that nearly 4 million Americans are daily e-cigarette users, and that figure could double within five years.

“What makes this category so interesting is that it has really fragmented and segmented over the years,” said Dave Savoca, president of Sandy Hook, Conn.-based Smokey Mountain Chew. “There are a lot of new products out there, and consumers have a much better opportunity to move from one to another to see what they like best.”

Industry officials stress that retailers need to pay close attention to the consumer demographics as they set up a tobacco category. Defining the shopper profile can help merchants determine the type of products to stock in the category, as well as what price points to highlight. They said that consumers are picking products for two reasons: price and usage.

“Some consumers are totally at ease with paying top dollar for tobacco products, while others want the best price out there,” said a director of marketing at a major tobacco company. “Plus more consumers want a choice, and we have to see exactly what they are looking for.”

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