A look into the growing vaping industry
Oliver Norman, content marketing manager, EDGE Vaping
Vaping began as an unfamiliar technology in 2010, but by 2017 was a global sensation. While it first saw a slow spread in usage, vaping is today recognised as a potentially important tool for assisting adult smokers in finding nicotine alternatives.
Making the switch from smoking is a major reason people vape and many others are just seeking a nicotine alternative to cigarettes. Public Health England has declared that vaping is 95% less dangerous than smoking, making it an especially appropriate option.
Consumers have adopted vaping in their droves throughout the years for a multitude of reasons, but the role of vaping cannot be understated. Depending on the research, it is believed that around 7% (or around 3.2 million people) of the UK population vape.
Without a doubt, the industry’s expansion has been rapid and profitable, but this growth has not been without obstacles. Like with any new technology, the general population has voiced worries regarding health and safety, as well as the usefulness of vaping as a nicotine alternative to cigarettes.
Slowly but surely, the concerns are being addressed; there is increasing evidence in favour of using vape devices to reduce the damage caused by tobacco, as indicated by the two most recent government reviews on the subject. However, there are additional important concerns yet addressed, which require long-term data for answers.
Despite this, the retail power of vaping goods is seeing consistent growth and will continue to be monitored. The vaping landscape has the potential to change in 2023/24 due to a number of important factors; from possible legislative changes in response to the widespread use of disposable vapes among young people, to changed consumer behaviour amidst the cost of living crisis.
Looking back on 2022
Vaping underwent a watershed moment in 2022; disposable vapes – vaping’s current vogue – have been available in UK shops since 2021. The product’s lightning-fast climb to market supremacy caused some interesting ripple effects throughout the business, both positive and negative.
Traditional vaping product sales decreased while pre-filled disposable unit sales increased – a trend that was only reversed in December 2022. This trend further accelerated when many consumers found themselves financially disadvantaged as a result of the cost-of-living crisis, which was compounded by a perfect storm of Brexit mistakes, political infighting, the COVID-19 outbreak, and the war in Ukraine.
The growth and collapse of disposable e-cigarettes
Disposable vapes appeared in the UK and offered customers the most convenient way to vape that we have ever seen. The devices were colourful and pleasing to the eye, tough on cravings but easy on the throat thanks to potent yet smooth nicotine salt e-liquid and an unbelievable selection of flavours ranging from regular offers to sweet and fruity combinations.
There is no coil to fuss with and no potentially messy refilling procedure thanks to their single-use and pre-filled design; users only need to puff and discard. Customers responded positively, allowing disposable vapes to capture a 90% market share in terms of unit sales by November 2022.
Originally, sales of bottled e-liquids and rechargeable devices like those sold by EDGE Vaping were flat. According to statistics, the considerable growth in vaping retail was restricted to disposable vapes; these consumers had never used other vaping items before, meaning that the unit sales could be attributed to nonsmokers or vapers. This is a moral problem in and of itself (you should not start smoking or vaping if you have never done so), but it also indicates a worrying increase in the number of young people taking up the habit.
Disposable vape sales were driven by the convenience sector, with smaller enterprises responding to demand by releasing as many disposable devices as they could as quickly as possible. This produced problems since unauthorised, untested variants began flooding the market, failing to fulfil the statutory safety requirements that all UK vaping goods must meet.
While the great demand for disposable vapes provided shops with a very profitable opportunity, their ascension was halted in December 2022. While there is still room for growth in terms of distribution, most retail establishments now have at least one sort of disposable vaping device, making additional reach difficult. To consider, there has also been a shift in customer perspective, which is adding to their recent reduction.
Trust in these devices has been diminished for many reasons, including:
- Illegal importation and sale of unregulated disposable vapes that do not comply with UK safety requirements. These devices commonly exceed the regulation of safe nicotine content and e-liquid volume restrictions (as seen in recent headlines).
- Trading Standards has carried out huge stock seizures and investigations across the UK in order to protect customers and educate store owners on compliance.
- The devices are entirely made of non-recyclable materials, such as lithium. They are frequently littered, and those that are disposed of appropriately are hauled to a landfill. This means that enough lithium is lost each year to build 1,200 electric vehicles.
- A significant youth access issue is still growing. TikTok and other social media sites are pushing underage youth to purchase fashionable vaping equipment. One in every five 15-year-olds, according to studies, presently utilises disposable vapes.
- Children can obtain devices from a variety of sources. Big supermarkets, as well as smaller enterprises and marketplaces, have been identified as potential sources of underage sales.
The nation is gripped by the cost of living
Economic challenges had a big influence on the development of the vaping sector in 2022; in many situations, cost of living issues made basic necessities costly.
- Food inflation in Ukraine owing to resource constraints as the conflict with Russia grows
- Rising gasoline prices
- Nationwide shortages of imported commodities as a result of post-Brexit infrastructural weakness.
These concerns have brought to their knees families who are already struggling to recover from the pandemic.
As a result, people browsed significantly more. Because 33% of buyers could only afford the essentials, many were forced to abandon vaping items entirely. Discounters selling low-cost disposable vapes did the best in the second half of 2022, although even these saw consumers’ average expenditure fall.
About 54% of those polled on the Vyper consumer app said they bought less e-liquid in November and December in order to prioritise other expenses.
What can we expect in 2023?
This year has seen some positive indicators of growth in the vaping industry. While disposable vapes appear to be down for the first time in 18 months, bottled e-liquids and traditional vaping devices and pods are up, indicating that consumer spending may be levelling off after the worst Christmas dip in at least three years.
Discount stores are having a huge influence on the vaping industry, with large variations in sales as people flock to them in pursuit of the cheapest way to vape. This is unlikely to change very soon; with the energy price cap set to be lifted in the coming weeks, customers will continue to look for methods to save.
Customers turning away
The disposable vaping scandals that have piled since 2021 are now taking root and influencing customer behaviour; as we can see, more consumers are now inclined to convert to a reusable pod system provided it delivers comparative convenience.
Novel brands, such as non-disposable goods from formerly disposable-only names, have contributed to the growth of pod systems. They have created a sense of familiarity, making it easier for customers to reject the convenience of disposables in favour of something more durable and, eventually, less expensive.
Yet, brand loyalty is at an all-time low, with price and product type being the most important factors in driving sales. While all vaping categories are expanding this year, e-liquid pods stand out because they provide a balance of price and convenience that appears to be appealing to the majority of customers. Retailers should keep in mind that disposables are declining but pods are increasing, so offering them (along with a wide variety of 10ml nic salt fruit flavours) is a sure bet for profit in 2023.
Vyper Consumer Data