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Reynolds brands gain ground on top-selling Marlboro; Juul reaches 54% market share

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Three key Reynolds American Inc. brands continued to chip away at top-selling Marlboro’s market share during a four-week period that ended March 24.

Wells Fargo Securities analyst Bonnie Herzog reported Tuesday that Marlboro’s volume fell 5.4 percent during the period, according to Nielsen data.

Herzog said Philip Morris USA “continues to address pressures on Marlboro as a result of ineffective promos, heightened competitive pressures, growth of fourth-tier brands, faster growth of e-cigs/Juul and lingering effects from California (state) tax” increase of April 2017.

However, she said the four-week volume decline is lower than a 6.5 percent falloff for the year to date.

Herzog said the slightly lower decline for the most recent period “suggests brand pressures may be finally moderating after 21 consecutive four-week periods of year-over-year declines.”

“We remain optimistic that Marlboro’s overall shipment share stabilizes in 2Q18.”

Meanwhile, No. 2 Newport of Reynolds had an overall 0.7 percent in dollar sales with 2.5 percent pricing increase offsetting a 1.8 percent decline in volume.

Natural American Spirit jumped 6.7 percent in dollar sales, buoyed by a 5.5 percent pricing hike and 1.2 percent volume increase.

Camel was up 1.4 percent in dollar sales with 5.4 percent pricing increase offsetting a 4 percent volume decline. Pall Mall, Reynolds’ top discount cigarette, had a 6.6 percent volume decline as more smokers turned to higher-price options.

The manufacturers will benefit in the next four-week reporting period from increasing the list price of their traditional cigarettes by 9 cents on either March 23 (Reynolds) or March 25 (Philip Morris USA).

The list price is what wholesalers pay manufacturers for their products. The increases typically are passed on to customers.

The increase follows Philip Morris’ recent pattern of raising prices every six months or so, which Reynolds and ITG Brands LLC tend to match.

ITG had a 5.6 percent decline during the period, with sizable volume decreases for Winston (down 7.3 percent).

ITG’s market share slipped to 7.4 percent overall, while Winston stayed at 2.3 percent and Kool and Maverick were unchanged at 1.6 percent.

In regard to electronic cigarettes, Herzog reported Juul held a 54.6 percent market share, up from 40 percent just three months ago.

At that level, Juul has exceeded the top market share (46.2 percent) of Marlboro brand for traditional cigarettes.

Meanwhile, Vuse of R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. fell from 21.4 percent to 19.3 percent.

The current sales represent a drastic switch from a year ago, when Vuse held a 35.4 percent market share and Juul was at 25 percent.

Juul entered the mainstream retail marketplace in 2015, and is sold in the form of a pen or a USB device.

Juul’s market-share growth has drawn criticism from anti-tobacco advocates, who say the discreet shape of the product makes it easy to hide its usage, including by teenagers.

Juul Labs Inc. has said in response that its mission “is to eliminate cigarette smoking by offering existing adult smokers with a better alternative to combustible cigarettes. JUUL is not intended for anyone else.” 336-727-7376 @rcraverWSJ


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