2020 Tobacco Basket Affinity Trends

The Tobacco category has kept c-store retailers incredibly busy in in 2020 – anticipating evolving consumer expectations and innovation, complying with fast moving regulations, and navigating stockouts. Today, we continue our recent deep dive in the category to identify consumer purchase trends, and manufacturers and brands that are growing share.

If you don’t have the time today to dive deeper, here’s a quick snapshot of the key takeaways:

  • Sports Drinks and Bottled Water are a growing share of Tobacco baskets
  • ITG Brands and Swedish Match capitalize on Cigar opportunity
  • Backwoods Smokes (ITG Brands) and White Owl (Swedish Match) lead category sales growth

Sports Drinks and Bottled Water are a Growing Share of Tobacco Baskets
One key to understanding consumer behavior is evaluating the shifting composition of baskets over time. The chart below reflects the affinity of baskets containing tobacco over 2020 by ranking the frequency of other categories. Bottled Soda, Energy Drinks and Beer have held strong as the top 3 categories throughout the period. Meanwhile, Sports Drinks have grown from the 8th position in January to the 4th position in July and Bottled Water has jumped from 7th position to 5th. On the other hand, Chocolate Bars/Packs, Chips and Lottery are less likely to pair with Tobacco than pre-pandemic. 


ITG Brands and Swedish Match Capitalize on Cigar opportunity
In a previous post we highlighted Tobacco basket growth by category (check it out here) and identified the above average units growth in Cigars. Today we’re taking a look at sales per store growth rate vs. year-ago levels for the Cigar category. We should note that most major manufacturers have experienced a significant increase in sales beginning in April as consumer patterns have changed. ITG Brands and Swedish Match, in particular, have capitalized on the opportunity to grow category share, while Japan Tobacco International and Scandinavian Tobacco Group have struggled in recent months.

Backwoods Smokes (ITG Brands) and White Owl (Swedish Match) Lead Category Sales Growth
We then looked more deeply at sales per store growth vs. year-ago levels for selected Cigar brands. The top 3 brands by sales volume – Black & Mild (Altria), Swisher Sweets (Swisher) and Backwoods Smokes (ITG Brands) are each growing at a strong clip during the crisis, but Backwoods Smokes and White Owl (Swedish Match) are leading the growth in sales.

C-stores dominate the cigar market and continue to focus on reaching both heavy and casual tobacco users. We expect continued growth in the Cigar subcategory over the remainder of 2020. Our team will continue to monitor Tobacco and broader in-store trends, share additional insights, and keep you informed over the near term.

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