For years, the tobacco category has been firing up in-store sales for convenience stores, accounting for more than one-fourth of all merchandise sales in 2019, per the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) annual State of the Industry report. Of course, cigarettes always landed No. 1, but in recent years, other tobacco products (OTPs) have gained favor with consumers. According to NACS, OTPs came in with approximately the same percentage of in-store sales for beer. Now, the tobacco-free modern oral nicotine segment is catching on, too.
The modern oral nicotine category attracts millennials, women and people interested in alternatives. Most items are characterized as spitless and odorless, so there are fewer restrictions where they can be used unlike cigarettes, moist chew and some OTPs. Also, the lack of tobacco and related carcinogens suggests the potential for less risk of harm.
While e-cigarettes and vaporizers, which also utilize liquid nicotine or nicotine salts, must be puffed in a fashion similar to cigarettes, oral nicotine products offer users more options: sandwiched between gums and cheeks, sucked like a candy and even chewed, which again emphasizes their discreet use.
Here’s a broad overview of the modern oral nicotine product family:
By far the most popular in the segment, nicotine pouches are placed between a user’s gums and cheeks or lips. Consumer feedback suggests the spitless sensation lasts approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Pouches are sold with varying levels of nicotine, ranging from one milligram up to eight milligrams, and in several flavors. (For more information, see “What Are Modern Oral Nicotine Pouches?”).
Usually associated with smoking cessation programs, nicotine gums slowly release nicotine as it is chewed — sold in two milligram and four milligram options. Once the nicotine sensation is detected, manufacturers recommend positioning the gum in the cheek area. This routine can be repeated. Offered in a selection of flavors, a candy coating helps deliver a sweet taste like other gums.
Nicotine lozenges, also touted as a tobacco-replacement alternative for those looking to quit smoking or chew habits, resemble other lozenges intended to soothe sore throats or hard candies, just with a dose of nicotine. Sucking on it allows a controlled nicotine experience. Like other oral nicotine items, lozenges come in two strength levels and a variety of flavors.
For customers who want just a hint of nicotine, but also enjoy an oral fixation, nicotine toothpicks can be a satisfying choice. Basically, this is a standard toothpick that’s been infused with nicotine and flavors.
As c-stores address the ever-changing regulatory landscape of traditional tobacco products, and now OTPs, the growing popularity of the modern oral nicotine category may help shore up sales for this vital profit sector.