NEW YORK — Largely positive tobacco trends continued through August according to the latest Nielsen data. For the four weeks ending Sept. 5, 2015, Nielsen reports cigarette and smokeless sales grew in the combined xAOC channels (food, drug, mass & WMT scanner data) and convenience stores. The trends were not so positive in the electronic-cigarette segment, where dollar sales declined and unit sales growth decelerated.
Cigarette Sales Burn Up
Cigarette dollar sales increased 3.4% this month (up from 3.1% last month and this time last year, when sales decreased 1.5%), driven by a 3.8% pricing increase and a 0.4% decrease in unit sales. Year to date, cigarette units are down just 0.6%, a vast improvement from the 10-year average of 3-4% declines.
“Given these favorable trends, we remain constructive on U.S. volumes for 3Q15 and the full-year, benefiting each of Altria, Reynolds and Imperial,” Cowen and Co. analyst Vivien Azer wrote in a research note.
In terms of the major manufacturers, Reynolds’ cigarette dollar sales were up 4.9% year-over-year, Altria’s sales were up 2.7% and Imperial’s sales were down 0.9% (versus a 1.5% decline last month and a 7.4% decline last year). Additionally, Reynolds managed to grow its newly acquired Newport brand (approximately 37% of the company’s cigarette sales) by 6.2%.
Smokeless Stays Solid
Smokeless dollar sales grew 5% in August, due to strong performances from leading brands. Reynolds’ Grizzly was up 6.3% and Altria’s Copenhagen was up 7.3%. Altria retained its leading dollar share position, a 57.1% share, followed by Reynolds (a 34% share) and Swedish Match (a 6.8% share).
E-Cigs’ Pricing Problem
E-cigarette dollar sales fell 7.6% year-over-year (versus a 12- week trend of 3.2% declines), with average unit pricing down 15.9%. Unit sales were up by just 9.9%, a deceleration from the 18.2% 12-week growth trends.
“Year-over-year growth continued to be fueled by the national launches of Vuse and MarkTen,” Azer said. “Dollar sales and volumes fell 24.0% and 18.3%, respectively, excluding the two brands.”
As for the leading performers, Reynolds’ Vuse remained the No. 1 player in both dollar and unit sales, but lost dollar share sequentially (down 0.2% to 33.3% of category dollar sales). Meanwhile, the second and third best-selling brands made sequential gains: Imperial’s blu gained 0.2 points in dollar share (to 23.7%), and 0.6 points in units (to 17.8%); and Japan Tobacco’s Logic was up 0.8 points in dollar share (to 15.3%) and 0.6% points in units (to 9.3%).