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LAS VEGAS — The latest products to hit the market tell the tale of evolution in the tobacco category. Other tobacco products like loose tobacco, moist snuff tobacco and cigars are still hitting shelves, but new vapor-related products seem to be dominating the story at Tobacco Plus Convenience Expo 2015.
The annual tobacco show kicked off Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center with the largest number of exhibitors the event has featured. Exhibitors this year include manufacturers from all areas of the tobacco category and a number of new exhibitors, notably from China.
The New Product Showcase occupies a central location this year in the Cigar Bar & Lounge. Vapor products featured here include S&M Brands' LEX 12 E-sense electronic cigarettes and e-liquids in 16 flavors; Buck Naked's Boost and Elite refillable electronic cigarettes and the Buck Naked Slip Kit; Vapor4Life's next generation e-cigarette WOW Vapor; and Lorillard Tobacco Co.'s blu Plus+.
In addition, more traditional products can be found alongside. Rouseco Inc. is debuting its Carolina Cigar Co. lineup with flavors including Sambucca, Mocha, Connecticut Corona, Hazelnut and Cappuccino. Cheyenne International LLC is also showcasing its six-packs of Klondike and Derringer premium moist tobacco tubs.
Overall, a walk around the show floor highlights the path of the traditional tobacco user as consumers seek out alternatives to traditional cigarettes.
Speaking at the expo, Vapor4Life CEO John Froman discussed the evolution of the vapor segment. A former executive with Circuit City, Froman likened the ever-changing vapor segment to electronics like the iPod. It starts with innovative technology, sees numerous players enter the space, and ends with a few mainstays that have made the products easy for consumers to use.
Electronic cigarettes began making a widespread distribution push in 2008-2009. In the early stages, there was 50-percent consumer trial, but only 1-percent retention because the products were not meeting consumers' needs, Froman explained.
Over the past few years, the segment has evolved beyond those first-generation e-cigarettes to vapor products as manufacturers try to satisfy the adult tobacco user, Froman added.
But it's not enough just to make a new product. Manufacturers and retailers need to follow a few best practices to help the overall vaping segment succeed. The role of the manufacturer, he said, is to make it easy for the retailer to sell; develop intuitive products; and make it easy to merchandise.
Froman added that "heavy associate training is not always the answer."
The role of the retailer, he explained, is to make it easy for consumers to buy; offer a simple product mix of premium, mid-level and entry-point products; and commit to the segment. Overall, retailers should have disposables — where the consumers' journey begins — e-liquids and third-generation vape technology.
One more tip: Display it properly and it should sell itself, he said.