General Merchandise: What’s hot in 2018

BY Carol Radice
The International Home + Housewares Show may just be a couple of months away, but Phil Brandl, president and CEO of the Rosemont, Ill.-based International Housewares Association said some interesting trends — propelled by innovative, design-driven products — are taking shape to impact several general merchandise categories in the following months. 
“Across the spectrum of home products, the impact of design and the emergence of new materials have created many new options for decorating, organizing, cleaning and supplying the home,” Brandl said. “Inspired by social media and peer-to-peer idea sharing, consumers are busily exploring new food preparation options, and kitchenware suppliers are ready with tools to support them.”  
Food and beverage storage
The standout hydration category, which includes bottles, infusion and filtration products, has experienced growth upward of 25% in the past year, and sales momentum is expected to continue forward in 2018. Propelled by health-and-wellness trends, such factors as technology, fashion and design continue to drive the category’s growth.  
The category is so hot, officials at IHA are adding a pre-show event, the Trending Today Preview: A Marketplace for Hydration on Saturday, March 10. Buyers will be able to meet with 60 exhibitors of hydration and hydration-related products from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. ahead of the show floor opening.
Among the vendors playing into the hydration trend is Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based Bradshaw International. Bradshaw is best known for its wide assortment of kitchenware offerings, but its products cover all seasons across every category, including tools and gadgets, bakeware, cookware, food storage and baking/decorating.
The company has recently launched its GoBottle under its Good Cook brand. Available in 25 SKUs, the GoBottle comes in a range of price points and options from acrylic to stainless steel thermal insulated bottles. The company said that it features quality construction and multiple usage features that include dual-function lids at a value that connects with most consumers. It also has bold, on-trend colors that Bradshaw said was meant to appeal to a younger demographic.
“We feel that the food storage and hydration categories make a lot of sense for our drug store partners,” said Melissa Simpson, senior channel manager at Bradshaw. “We have always had a presence with some core kitchen gadgets such as corkscrews and can openers, so the extension into these everyday items offers more opportunities for sales.”
Many of bottles are spill resistant with secure lids sealed with silicone gaskets, are BPA-free, designed to be easy to fill and clean, and many have built-in loops ready to be attached to backpacks or gym bags, Bradshaw said, noting that a color-coded system quickly lets the consumer know the top three details of each bottle.
Good Cook’s GoBottle stainless steel group is constructed of 18/8 stainless steel in order to provide durability and thermal insulation, Bradshaw said. On some of its bottles, cold drinks will maintain icy cold temperatures for up to 24 hours, while hot liquids can hold their temperature for longer than six hours, according to Bradshaw. 
Bradshaw is tapping into another general merchandise category that sees near-constant demand — food storage. Consumers never seem to have enough food storage containers, in part because they are always bringing them to work, in their car or taking them along when visiting friends. Experts say price, durability and weight are three factors that will be influencing consumers’ buying decisions in 2018. Shoppers also want eco-friendly, versatile and temperature-resistant containers.
In an effort to deliver on these needs, Bradshaw has recently introduced its Good Cook Food Storage Value Pack. The 50-piece set is BPA-free, as well as microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe. Bradshaw said the price point makes an ideal addition to drug, grocery and mass retailers. 
Tech storage
Freelancing is becoming more prevalent in our society, especially with the younger generation and those who need or want more flexibility in their work hours. With more workers in the United States being positioned as freelancers, many of these mobile employees work from multiple places on any given day, which has led to an increased demand for products that help support this portable lifestyle. Officials at Allegro, a division of Conair, located in El Segundo, Calif., noted that the driving factor for innovation will be how to help these workers maintain a certain level of organization and preparedness wherever they may be, with ease and efficiency.
The growing freelancer community and lifestyle are leading companies like Allegro to create products that provide innovative solutions that make organization and accessibility of all their gear and tech accessories easy. Allegro’s Porte Play line of electronic accessories storage bags come in a variety of sizes and was created to help users easily and neatly store cables, chargers, and other tech accessories. 
“We created Porte Play to be functional and not overly designed, unlike some similar items in the market,” Sarah Phan, vice president of marketing and new business strategy, said. She noted that such features as mesh and PVC pockets make it easy to store larger items and see what is in each compartment. Elastic loops were included to offer easy access to frequently used smaller items.
“And given that most freelancers work in public spaces or open collaborative workspaces, we made sure the bags also look sleek and stylish so they are happy to pull them out of their bags or leave them open on the desk,” Phan said.
Express yourself
Staying relevant by keeping up with what consumers are looking for will be critical for greeting card sales to thrive in 2018. This applies as much to content as it does to design. Affirming messages, in particular, are expected to appeal to greeting card shoppers this year. 
“Greeting cards are an emotional purchase and communicate messages we often cannot say ourselves,” said Megan Baucco, associate manager, marketing communications for Cleveland-based American Greetings. 
Special occasion cards will remain the top reason consumers buy cards, but as Baucco pointed out, consumers also will look to greeting cards to celebrate the everyday things, people and moments in life that really matter. 
Accompanying this content, experts noted design elements featuring personal touches and high-end craftsmanshipwill be features drawing consumers
“Despite living hectic lives more people will be inclined to show up for each other and offer friends and loved ones’ support in those everyday moments,” Baucco said. “Cards with positive messages will remain a popular choice with consumers looking to take a little stress out of someone’s life.”

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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon's entry would shake up the most?
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Boiron Oscillococcinum
Boiron Oscillococcinum
Carma Labs' Carmex Comfort Care
Carma Labs' Carmex Comfort Care
Derma E
Derma E
Dr. Sheffield’s Natural Toothpaste
Éclair Naturals
Éclair Naturals
Berry Sleepy from Healthy Ventures
Hyland's 4Kids Cough 'n Mucus
Lifelab Health's NuSyllium
Sundial Brands
Sundial Brands
Wahl Pet Shampoo
Wahl Pet Shampoo
Yes To
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DSN Retail Excellence Awards — Natural

BY Seth Mendelson

Standing out in a crowd.

That is pretty difficult when it comes to the natural products segment among HBC brands. With the category growing at steady double-digit rates for at least the last five years, a large number of suppliers have entered the market, all hoping to grab their fair share of this burgeoning segment.

The result has been a mixed bag for retailers, who are often caught between finding enough space for a hot category and making sure that they do not go overboard with selection, especially from companies that are simply offering redundant products that are already on the shelves.

Drug Store News wants to do its part to help retailers understand the suppliers who can help them make a difference. Our Retail Excellence (REX) Awards—Natural are designed to help merchants learn more about products that make a difference in this growing category. Here’s a look at the 2018 REX award winners:

“We are the global leader in homeopathic products,” said Gary Wittenberg, vice president of national accounts for Newtown Square, Pa.-based Boiron USA. “No one sells more of these products than we do.”

Not bad for a nearly 86-year-old company founded in France by twin brothers Jean and Henri Boiron. Today Boiron offers more than 200 SKUs in a number of different segments, including cough-cold, external analgesics and children’s medicines. “We believe in educating the healthcare professional about Boiron and our many products,” Wittenberg said. “We want them to understand exactly what we offer and then give their recommendations to their patients. Besides our sales team, we also operate a medical sales team that is charged with influencing the influencers.”

Boiron has recently introduced ThroatCalm, designed to temporary relieve minor sore throat and hoarseness; Camilia, which relieves the symptoms of teething, including painful gums and irritability; and baby ColdCalm to the marketplace.

“Right now there are very few natural alternatives for mom to pick from on store shelves,” Wittenberg noted. “And, they are looking for natural alternatives, especially for their babies. If they can’t find it at your store, they will walk out and shop elsewhere.”

Carma Laboratories
For more than 80 years, Carma Laboratories has manufactured Carmex brand lip care products and, although Carma Labs is a family-owned business based in a small Wisconsin town, it produces an impressive volume of products for both national and international distribution.

The company continues to produce its original lip care formula in its iconic jars as well as tube and stick, and has expanded the line to include a natural formula, flavored moisture-rich lip care products and Carmex Cold Sore Treatment.

Carmex Comfort Care is a natural lip balm, providing long-lasting moisture with the help of nature’s best ingredients. It is formulated with natural colloidal oatmeal, contains antioxidant-rich fruit seed oil to help restore lips’ natural beauty and provide hydration, and helps defend against free radicals that accelerate the appearance of aging. The product also is formulated with beeswax and cupuacu butter to improve moisturization and soften lips. Carmex Comfort Care comes in three flavors: Mixed Berry, Sugar Plum and Watermelon Blast.

“We are committed to driving continued growth both for the brand and for our retailers by developing lip care products that consumers will love,” said Jona Mancuso, vice president of marketing for Carma. “The brand has a lot of market momentum right now with Carmex dollars sales up 10.7% in a lip balm category that is growing 1.9%. Extending the brand through meaningful innovation is one way we’ll work to maintain that momentum.”

Derma E
What started as a small health food store in southern California has turned into one of the leading natural skin care companies in the country. And officials at Simi Valley, Calif.-based Derma E are quite proud of that history.

“We have been in business for 34 years, and we are quite proud of our roots,” said Jeff Carducci, senior vice president of North American sales for the company. “We are the only one of the top 10 companies in the natural facial care segment that is still family-owned and not owned by a private equity group. We think that says a lot.”

Derma E offers about 100 SKUs in facial care, including products in the cleanser and moisturizer segments, as well as hair care, body care and therapeutic products. “Our mission is simple,” noted Carducci. “We want to deliver products that exceed the standards in the natural product category. We are an open book to what is inside all of our products, and we believe that strategy has helped us develop a strong emotional connection with consumers — and that we have earned their trust.”

He added that retailers need to focus on these types of products because of consumer interest in quality when it comes to skin care items. “The type of consumers who look for these products are highly educated and willing to spend money on the right products,” Carducci added. “Retailers who want to bring these types of consumers into their stores need to stock our items.”

Éclair Naturals
Company officials at Éclair Naturals said their mission is to create great natural products for people who are looking for these types of items. “We believe that everybody deserves to have access to luxurious body care products that are also natural, efficacious and affordable,” said John Matise, the company’s CEO.

[pb]“We also believe in being socially minded and environmentally conscious as a company. One example of this is where we take our bar soap trimmings and make ‘mutt soap’ which is a hodgepodge of many different types of our bar soaps. We then give this to our partner, Convoy of Hope, to be used in disaster relief efforts, homeless shelters and other community outreach programs. This accomplishes two of our company goals simultaneously — zero waste and helping those less fortunate.”

The Chatsworth, Calif.-based company focuses on three main strategies: the luxuriousness of products, the purity of its formulas and food-grade ingredients, officials said. Food-grade ingredients are used to create unique formulas that are also vegan, GMO-free, gluten-free, soy-free and cruelty-free. “We know our consumers won’t settle for anything less than the best, which is why we are rooted in our mission to bring them the purest, most luxurious ingredients,” Matise said. “That means never any harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, silicones, propylene glycol, or synthetic colors or fragrances. So there is never any cause for concern.”

The line includes a wide range of body and hair care products, including soaps, scrubs, bath bombs and bath salts, moisturizers, deodorants, hand sanitizers, shampoos and conditioners.

“Making our products affordable to everyone is one of our main objectives,” he said. “That is why they are priced at a ‘masstige’ level, and we focus our attention on the food, drug and mass markets for approachability and convenience. It is a challenge to make a difference in the constantly growing market of natural products, but we believe we bring a unique and more complex perspective by offering high-quality products that adhere to our strict brand promise and our ‘Never Any’ seal, one of the most comprehensive ‘free from’ lists in the industry.”

Healthy Ventures
Jim Lacey, CEO of Healthy Ventures, said that his company is perfectly positioned to take advantage of changing consumer demands. “The shopper today wants natural sleep aids,” he said. “The category is exploding because consumers are tired of synthetic products. Plus, our products work. They keep the person asleep without any of the side effects that come with synthetic products.”

The Westlake Village, Calif.-based company offers Berry Sleepy superfruit sleep aids and Berry Awake superfruit energy shots. “This is an exciting time for Berry Sleepy and Berry Awake, as we aid in growing the natural products segment within the two fast-growing categories of sleep aids and energy shots,” Lacey said. “The response from customers has been tremendous.”

Company officials said that Berry Sleepy is a naturally healthy sleep aid, rich in naturally occurring vitamins and antioxidants that contain a proprietary sleep and relaxation blend. The base is all berries — tart cherries, passion fruit and goji berries — with valerian root. The formula features 5 g of prebiotics, supporting probiotic “good bacteria,” which help keep the digestive system healthy.

Berry Awake is a proprietary blend of green coffee berries extract, guarana seed extract, bacopa leaf extract, and ginseng, delivering natural energy with a powerful blend of superfruits for an energy blast that lasts for hours. Berry Awake features an added boost of energy from 2,000 mg of pea protein.

Lacey said that Berry Sleepy and Berry Awake have broad appeal from millennials to baby boomers looking for a healthy alternative to coffee and energy products or seeking quality sleep without morning-after grogginess, all without harmful side effects.

Hyland’s has a lot to hang its hat on. Company officials said the Los Angeles-based, family-owned company is the oldest and largest manufacturer of homeopathic products in the country. Plus, they said that Hyland’s has fought long and hard to earn the respect of retailers and consumers alike. The result is a successful company, which now produces more than 100 SKUs across the baby, children and adult segments.

Hyland’s produces products in the pain relief, cough-cold and allergies, digestion, ear care, first aid, skin care and women’s health segments. “Things really took off for us about 25 years ago when one retailer decided to give us a chance on their shelves,” said Hyland’s president Les Hamilton. “We did very well there, and many other retailers quickly got on board. I think consumers see the quality of our products and the fact that our items are safe and effective alternatives to other products on the market.

Lifelab Health
Officials at Lifelab Health are focused on organic health brands especially as more consumers buy these products and sales get close to $50 billion annually.

“Millennials are driving that growth,” said Lou Machin, Lifelab Health managing director, who added that since 2010, organic nonfood sales are becoming a large portion of total organic sales. “Consumers of all ages are not getting the recommended amount of fiber from diet alone, so supplementation is key to good health. Lifelab developed NuSyllium, the only fiber product sold on shelf in the United States that is made with 100% USDA-certified organic psyllium fiber.”

Machin said the finished product contains 95% to 99% pure husks. He also noted that organic crops have significantly higher levels of all main nutrients and are grown without chemical fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides or other chemicals. NuSyllium is GMO and gluten-free, is free from artificial flavoring and food dyes, and comes in Original (Unflavored) and Natural Orange flavor. “The organic psyllium fiber in NuSyllium is clinically proven to promote digestive health, lower cholesterol levels and help with weight management,” he said.

Company officials said other certified organic products from Lifelab include the HoneyWorks cough-cold brand for kids and adults made with 100% USDA-certified organic honey. “The two USDA-certified organic kids’ SKUs will be unique in the children’s cough-cold category,” Machin said. “HoneyWorks Kids Spray will deliver incremental sales and an organic throat spray alternative to the current products on the market.”

Sheffield Pharmaceuticals
Officials at New London, Conn.-based Sheffield Pharmaceuticals know they have history on their side. The company was the first to put toothpaste into a tube, way back in 1878, after the founder’s son saw paint being put into aluminum tubes while on a visit to Paris. The company has used its status well, developing a strong presence in the controlled brand category with dozen of products.

Sheffield offers four SKUs — whitening, peppermint, sensitive care and natural wintergreen — of toothpastes exclusively at CVS Pharmacy, with a fifth flavor, charcoal, being introduced this year. “We think the key to our success is to make a really good product,” said Jeffrey Davis, president/CEO of Sheffield. “We cover our bases. We have a great story and great retro packaging. But we also have a great product with natural ingredients that people love. The bottom line is that our products taste good and consumers keep coming back for them over and over again.”

Sundial Brands
A true Horatio Alger story. Sundial Brands CEO Richelieu Dennis came to the United States from Liberia to attend college. When he graduated in 1991, he was unable to return to his country because of civil war. Driven by his passion for entrepreneurship, Richelieu partnered with his best friend, Nyema Tubman, to pursue a dream: address skin and hair care issues traditionally ignored by mass market companies. Drawing from deep traditions born out of his family’s roots in Africa and passed down to him from his grandmother, Richelieu incorporated four generations of recipes, wisdom and cultural experiences into natural bath and body care products, co-founding Sundial with his mother — Mary Dennis — and Nyema.

Sundial remains true to the deep family legacy and inspiration of Richelieu’s grandmother, Sofi Tucker. Sundial’s brands — Nubian Heritage, SheaMoisture, Nyakio and Madam CJ Walker Beauty Culture — are inclusive, addressing underserved issues such as hyperpigmentation, dark spots and the special needs of textured hair, as well as consumer demands for efficacious natural products.

“Today, our uncompromising focus on research and innovation enables us to continuously explore holistic and culturally authentic practices and ingredients from around the globe and incorporate them into the unique skin and hair care formulations of our brands,” said the company’s website. “Sundial — a certified B Corp company with a Fair for Life social and fair trade certification — proudly self-manufactures our natural and certified organic ingredient products at our state-of-the-art facilities in Long Island, N.Y.”

Wahl Clipper
Wahl Clipper offers a full assortment of Pet Friendly wet goods, including a line of  24-oz. dog shampoos for specific applications, waterless no-rinse bathing solutions for in-between bathing, bathing wipes and refreshing sprays for that time when deep cleaning bathing is not available.

According to company officials, the product’s unique high concentration with more ounces is designed to provide consumers a value that helps them save time and money by getting more and by using less. In addition to the value proposition, Wahl Pet Friendly shampoos are formulated with plant-derived ingredients that provide a great lather and easy rinse-ability leaving the pet fresh, smooth and clean. Wahl’s shampoos are PH balanced, alcohol and paraben free, they noted.

“To maximize sales, retailers should really consider offering a line of wet goods that provide benefits while giving pet parents extreme value,” said Shay Moeller, the company’s consumer pet product manager. “Dog owners are willing to spend more on products they feel that the benefits match the value while they are safe and easy to use. In addition, retailers should look for trusted brands that offer education and support for how to best serve their dogs.”

Yes To
Millennials and Generation Z consumers say they want more natural products that are also fun to use. Officials at Pasadena, Calif.-based Yes To said they have the answers. The company offers about 100 SKUs in the face care category, including facial masks, facial cleansers and acne treatment products.

“We view ourselves as a millennial and Generation Z beauty brand that is not only natural, but also colorful, fun and is free of all the nasty chemicals out there,” said Ingrid Jackel, the CEO at Yes To. “Our products are filled with love, passion and care.”

Company officials added that Yes To products feature a seal that shows that all product contain at least 95% natural ingredients. All products are formulated without parabens and packaged in recyclable packaging whenever possible.

Jackel said that Yes To is the top brand in the natural facial segment. The company recently launched a charcoal peel-off facial mask. “We definitely attract an audience that is looking for unique and natural products,” she said. “Our products appeal to a very demanding group of consumers who are looking for quality and are willing to pay for items that work.”


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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon's entry would shake up the most?

Latest innovations in the world of tobacco

BY Carol Radice
The Tobacco Plus Expo 2018 may still be weeks away, but it is already shaping up to be one of the premier events in the quickly evolving tobacco industry, a category that is in the midst of change as new products become available. TPE is the largest business-to-business tobacco trade show highlighting tobacco, vapor, alternatives and general merchandise products available in the ever-evolving market.
The part trade show, part conference, TPE attracts many the top vendors and retailers across a broad spectrum of retail channels, all looking to get a first glimpse at the latest trends. TPE 2018 will be held Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 at the Las Vegas Convention Center and feature a range of industry speakers, idea exchanges, social events and plenty of networking opportunities. While there are many returning vendors, expo officials said more than one-third of the exhibitors this year are new merchants — a key sign, they noted, of a growing industry.
Also, new this year, the National Association of Tobacco Outlets is aligning with TPE 2018 to bring its industry outlook to attendees. The association will present the NATO Industry Outlook on Jan. 30.
“For this expo, our goal is to provide retailers with the right tools and information to put their best foot forward this year,” said Ben Stimpson, managing director of the Tobacco Media Group, the parent company of TPE. “From a show floor full of in-demand, on-trend products and exclusive show specials, to conference tracks offering new tricks of the trade and networking spaces that allow everyone to relax and blow off some steam, this conference offers something for everyone in the industry.”
Options matter
One look at all the new products launching this year at TPE and elsewhere, and it is clear that retailers that offer choices that appeal to a wide spectrum of consumer interests will be among those that grow sales in the category this year.
Heeding this advice, Sandy Hook, Conn.-based Smokey Mountain Chew is introducing Airio. Company officials described Airio as a pressurized filter that has the ability to remove over half of the tar and other chemicals from a cigarette.
Dave Savoca, president of Smokey Mountain, said the product was created to address the consumers’ desire for alternatives within the tobacco category. Measuring at just half an inch, Airio may be small in size, but what it lacks in stature it makes up for with features. For instance, in addition to removing chemicals from cigarettes, Airio also can be used to help adult consumers looking to manage their cigarette intake or quit. Made in the United States, a 20-filter pack has a suggested retail price of $1.99. Smokey Mountain is offering retailers a buy 10 packs and get two packs free promotion.
While a good number of consumers are attracted to high-tech vaping options, Savoca pointed out that a similar number of consumers are looking for more choices within the tobacco category itself. “A significant amount of time and energy went into creating this product,” said Savoca. “Airio is positioned to bring incremental sales to the category at a time when many consumers are demonstrating that they are open to alternatives.”
New look for blu
Come to the end of February, consumers will be seeing some changes to blu product packaging. Company officials for the Charlotte, N.C. -based company noted that the move is being done to remain in compliance with new FDA packaging requirements.
In addition to adding warning verbiage to packaging and advertising, blu’s PLUS+ Xpress Kit will come in a paper box similar to the company’s current disposables packaging. The company also is changing the way it categorizes its e-liquid nicotine strengths. Previously, blue classified products using HIGH, MED and NON. The new version will include percentage amounts that reflect the amount of nicotine in the e-liquid: 2.4%, 1.2% and 0%.
The company’s website offers retailers and consumers detailed information about the different nicotine strengths in e-liquid under the “Explore Vaping” section. Officials noted that during this transitional period, some shipments may contain a mix of past and updated packaging or labels.
Matt Kessler, global brand public relations and entertainment marketing director for blu, pointed out that while the company is working on these compliance changes, they took the liberty of making some additional updates of their own.  One of the changes the company is making is to its blu disposables box. The box will soon feature a new eye-catching design, and its look will be more consistent with existing packaging.
On the horizon
According to some experts, heat-not-burn — a new type of tobacco product that’s trending overseas — could potentially overtake e-cigarettes in popularity within the United States, assuming the Food and Drug Administration approves it.
Heat-not-burn tobacco products contain electronic devices capable of heating tobacco. As the tobacco becomes warm, it produces an inhalable aerosol. Whereas e-cigarettes contain a flavored liquid nicotine, heat-not-burn products use real tobacco.
The idea behind heat-not-burn is to offer users an experience that looks and feels like smoking a regular cigarette without having to inhale combusted tobacco. Tobacco companies claim that heat-not-burn products are less harmful than cigarettes.
Currently, heat-not-burn products aren’t for sale in the United States, but that may be changing soon. Philip Morris is seeking approval from the FDA to sell IQOS (I-Quit-Ordinary-Smoking), under its Marlboro brand. According to the Richmond, Va.-based company’s research, smoking IQOS offers reduced toxicity, lower levels of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals, and has minimal impact on lung or heart health (in animal studies) when compared with regular cigarettes.
However, given that the product is being brought to market as a modified risk tobacco product, a designation given by the FDA that refers to “tobacco products that are sold or distributed for use to reduce harm or the risk of tobacco-related disease associated with commercially marketed tobacco products,” it must first pass an arduous review.
Industry officials expected the FDA to make its decision in the next few months. If approved, the IQOS would be the first device to carry a modified risk tobacco product designation. IQOS already is available in over 25 countries worldwide.
Industry observers are bullish on the device and predict that, should it be approved for use in the United States, heat-not-burn products will quickly become popular, especially with e-cigarette users. “This is an innovative new form of nicotine consumption that offers a distinct ‘throat-hit’ — a physical feeling of smoking cigarettes, which is an experience that is often missing from vaporizers or e-cigarette devices,” noted one observer. “Based on what we are seeing in terms of its use in other countries, combined with a more informal measurement of what is trending online, all signs point to heat-not-burn devices becoming the next big trend in the tobacco category for 2018, even overtaking e-cigarettes.”

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Which area of the industry do you think Amazon's entry would shake up the most?