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    MarkTen National Rollout Hits 60,000 Stores

    Altria plans to bring the e-cig brand east this fall.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News

    RICHMOND, Va. -- In the month since beginning its national rollout, MarkTen has reached 60,000 stores in the western United States.

    The expansion of the electronic cigarette brand comes as its maker Nu Mark LLC, a subsidiary of The Altria Group Inc., completed the acquisition of the e-vapor business of Green Smoke Inc. and its affiliates, and began the integration process.

    "We are very pleased with our progress in innovative products," said Marty Barrington, chairman and CEO of Altria. "Nu Mark also continues to integrate Green Smoke into its business platform with its supply chain capabilities."

    Barrington's comments came during the Richmond-based tobacco company's second-quarter earnings call Tuesday morning.

    The company is taking a disciplined approach to its innovative products. As for MarkTen, he explained the company implemented a rolling launch in June, which brought the e-cigarette brand to 25 western states. The current count of 60,000 locations accounts for more than 70 percent of cigarette industry volume in the western United States.

    The rolling launch has allowed Altria and Nu Mark to ensure the product is available and avoid out-of-stocks. Distribution of MarkTen will move east this fall, he added.

    "We have a lot of confidence in this product," Barrington said. "We are off to a good start."

    While distribution of its innovative products is important, Barrington acknowledged it is not the only thing, adding that Altria continues to be encouraged with product development at Nu Mark.

    The chief executive said he is "excited about MarkTen," but he doesn't think it is the only new product people should expect from Nu Mark in the e-vapor category.

    Through Nu Mark, Altria became the last of the big three tobacco companies to enter the e-vapor category when MarkTen entered its first test market last summer. However, Barrington said the category is still in the early stages and there has been very little brand equity built up by any company.

    "To say that the category is fully developed and we are late to the game is the wrong way to look at it," he said.

    During the call, Barrington declined to comment on Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Reynolds American Inc.'s plan to acquire Greensboro, N.C.-based Lorillard Inc., instead stressing that Altria is focused on maintaining its market leader position.

    "We are the market leader today and we will continue to be," he said.

    Altria also announced a new $1-billion share repurchase program to be completed by the end of 2015.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News
    • About Melissa Kress Melissa Kress joined EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner in November 2010. Her primary beats include alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Kress has been a professional journalist since 1995. A graduate of West Virginia University, she began her career in community journalism before moving to business-to-business publishing in 2000, covering commercial real estate.

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