Paul Hill finds out what Scandinavian Tobacco Group is doing in the wholesale channel with country director UK, Alastair Williams
Why should wholesalers work with Scandinavian Tobacco Group (STG)?
As the number-one player in cigars, we like to consider ourselves as the cigar category champion, and this brings with it an obligation to provide the trade with great products that meet consumer demand. We’re very fortunate to have a portfolio that ticks all the boxes when it comes to the UK cigar market, so wholesalers can feel confident that STG UK should be their cigar partner of choice.
What is the greatest challenge the wholesale industry faces?
From a tobacco perspective, it’s the ever-changing legislative environment and how the channel helps cascade the flow of information down to retailers. Wholesalers play a crucial role in helping manufacturers provide information about the category to help their retail customers make the right choices.
What trends and opportunities are emerging that customers can take advantage of?
The key trends in the cigar category have remained pretty consistent over the past few years. First, there is the continued rise in miniature cigars, which now account for nearly 74% of total sales. This is up 5% on last year, and features Signature, the jewel in our crown, which is the number-one cigar brand and easily the bestselling miniature. Secondly, we have seen for a while now consistent growth in adult smokers looking for good-quality, value-for-money propositions such as Moments, which is the fastest-growing cigar in the UK.
What challenges has STG had to overcome in the past year?
I’d be lying if I said there was no nervousness whatsoever at our end when it came to taking the decision to change the name of such a ubiquitous cigar brand like Café Crème to Signature. However, we have been really encouraged to see no noticeable impact on sales so far, with both trade customers and adult smokers seeming to understand that the product inside the tins is identical and very much still the UK’s favourite cigar. It’s probably a good opportunity for me to thank wholesalers for the key role they have played in helping make the transition and say how much we appreciate their collaboration and support.
What is STG’s greatest achievement in the past year?
Probably continuing to grow our share in what can be a tough and challenging market. We feel it’s down to the strength and depth of our portfolio and knowing what cigar smokers want.
What would you like to see happen in wholesale in the next 12 months?
It’s probably on all our minds, but I would like to see the industry working closely together to try to mitigate any potential impact that may occur from Brexit. This means manufacturers like ourselves acting responsibly and working with wholesalers to make contingency plans that ensure continuity of supply and as little disruption as possible.
What advice would you give wholesalers looking to grow sales in the cigar category?
As I’ve already mentioned, there’s some very clear trends to be aware of, but aside from that, know your local market and make sure you are stocking what they want.