The cigarette brands in question are Gallaher's Sterling and Imperial Tobacco's Windsor Blue, and both companies are as pleased as punch with how sales are going. Both products offer smokers value, but with the assurance that comes from being produced by a big tobacco company.
Imperial Tobacco recently announced that Windsor Blue is the UK's fastest growing cigarette brand. The cigarettes have been available since January 2006 and at the launch Imperial forecast a market share of 1.5% by the end of the year. However, the brand achieved a 1.7% share of the total cigarette market by the end of July and sales are still growing.
It's so impressive that Imperial trade communications manager Iain Watkins is forecasting a market share of 2% by the end of the year. He says: "A 1.7% share might not sound much but in a multi-billion-pound market, it's worth a lot. There are brands that have been around for 30 years that have less of a share than that. Windsor Blue was launched just at the right time with smokers down-trading to lower price cigarettes."
The Windsor Blue range comprises king size 10s and 20s; king size smooth 20s; superkings 10s and 20s; superkings smooth 20s; and superkings menthol 20s.
Imperial reports that "excellent levels of distribution" have helped drive sales as well as the availability of pricemarked packs.
Says Watkins: "Our forecasts indicate that the ultra-low (value/economy) priced cigarette sector will account for 45% of total cigarette sales by 2008 and research indicates that every day more than 1,000 adult smokers are switching to Windsor Blue."
Meanwhile, Gallaher maintains that its Sterling brand is now number one in the 'cheapest' cigarette sector. Sterling was relaunched and rolled out to all trade channels in January and today boasts a 3.4% market share. Gallaher says its performance equates to year-on-year growth of 44%.
Sterling has a premium look and feel but an affordable price. It has also been available in pricemarked packs.
Gallaher trade communications manager Jeremy Blackburn says: "We anticipated that Sterling would be a popular brand for smokers who buy their products from independent retailers and the indication after six months is that Sterling will be a major player in the future. The national share of 3.4% is very encouraging but there are regions where the share for the Sterling range exceeds the national performance - for example, in the South West, where Sterling has nearly achieved a 6% share."
Brian Knight, from Roadwater PO & Stores in Somerset, has stocked Sterling since January. He says: "More and more people are buying cigarettes from the 'cheapest' sector, and Sterling has become extremely popular in my store."

Product update

New from Swedish Match is the Swan Combi. Aimed at younger roll-your-own (RYO) smokers with an urban bias, it is a pocket-size pack containing 50 Swan green papers and 50 Swan extra-slim filters. Rrp is 65p. It was trialled successfully in selected cash and carries earlier this year and is being rolled out nationally this month. Swedish Match is a major player in the tobacco accessories market. It boasts market leadership in matches but the company says its 'pop-a-tip' Swan Filter Tips are its star performer. Latest volume figures give the product a market share of almost 85% (AC Nielsen MAT to week ending July 29, 2006). The company puts its success down to the heritage of the Swan brand and continued investment in it.

Imperial Tobacco's King Edward Coronets small cigar brand has new and improved packaging with a modern look for improved on-shelf impact. In addition to the updated pack design, each cigar is individually wrapped to preserve its quality and maintain freshness. The packs are pricemarked at £3.09.

Gallaher is launching two new limited-edition tins for Amber Leaf, exclusively for independent retailers. The 12.5g and 25g formats will be pricemarked at £2.45 and £4.83 respectively. It is hoped that they will raise awareness and drive trial
of the brand among young adult smokers. Gallaher trade communications manager Jeremy Blackburn says: "The limited-edition Amber Leaf tin that we launched last year was so popular that we decided to make it available again. But as a result of the increase in popularity of the 25g pack, which now accounts for nearly one in four pack sales of Amber Leaf, we have created a tin to meet demand for this size, too."
The latest line from Karelia is George Karelia and Sons hand-rolling tobacco in 25g pouches. The tobacco is described as a premium product and comprises a Virginia, Burley and Dark Fire Burley blend. Founded in 1888, Karelia
is family-run company based in Kalamata, Greece. Today it boasts being that country's leading cigarette manufacturer and exporter. Its state of the art production facilities are among the
most advanced in Europe, with the capacity to produce more than 15 billion cigarettes a year. Karelia currently exports to more than 60 countries but recently established a new subsidiary, Karelia Tobacco Company to sell its products in the UK.

Gallaher has just launched a 14s pack format for its Camel Subtle brand, which meets today's average consumption of 14 sticks a day. Camel has been growing in demand in the UK and has experienced an impressive 11% increase within the profitable premium cigarette sector. The tobacco company reckons the new pack size gives retailers a chance to build on this growth by providing smokers with access to this popular American blend cigarette at a more affordable price. Camel is the fifth largest cigarette brand in the world and sells particularly well in urban areas.

A new name in the rolling papers market is Gizeh, pronounced 'geezer'. The extra-slim papers carry 66 leaves, whereas most existing brands carry 50. Rrp is 22p. Gizeh is being marketed in
the UK by Bull Brand. Managing director Andrew Barker says: "Gizeh is genuinely offering UK customers something new.
The paper is slimmer, meaning less overlap and, as it states in the advertising campaign, 'better taste, less waste'; plus the corners are cut, meaning easy rolling."