Price-conscious adults switch to value cigarettes

05 March, 2010

This year’s top 20 shows smokers feeling the pinch are seeking brands that offer quality at an affordable price. And it’s the brands that consumers don’t think represent value for money which are fast losing sales.

There’s been no change to the names occupying the top four spots, and it’s only lower down the charts that jostling for position begins. In fifth and sixth place, Richmond King Size and Richmond Superkings have switched positions over the year, and below them Benson & Hedges King Size Silver and Silk Cut King Size Purple have done the same.

Richmond King Size must be singled out for praise for achieving 7% growth, bringing it sales to £495 million.

Imperial Tobacco’s public relations manager Iain Watkins puts this down to the brand being “a natural choice for value-conscious consumers who also maintain a propensity for the high? quality found in the Richmond range”.

Imperial’s? Lambert & Butler King Size had a disappointing year, although it still remains the market leader with £1.3 billion sales. “The reduction in the value of Lambert & Butler King Size sales in the off-licence channel is evidence of adult smokers down-trading through the price sectors,” Watkins adds.

Lower down the chart and JTI’s Sterling brand has notched up impressive sales increases. Jeremy Blackburn, head of communications, attributes Superkings’ 52% uplift and King Size’s 77% uplift to the brand offering a “price-conscious, adult choice”.

In October 2008 JTI moved the brand into the “super value sector” with new, cheaper price-marked packs. The move was designed to help retailers “at a time of economic instability and when adult smokers will be looking for more value for money”, said the company, and the policy has evidently paid off.

Blackburn adds: “Since the launch of Sterling into the multiple grocers in 2001, its [market] share has grown virtually every year and realigning the brand into the value sector saw sales accelerate.”?But when it comes to Sovereign, JTI’s good fortunes haven’t continued, with the brand dropping down 10% despite rolling out four limited-edition pack designs in April that featured cityscapes at night, in a bid to appeal to adult smokers living in urban areas. “Sovereign offers adult smokers an alternative within the sub premium sector,” Blackburn says.

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