Me and My Brand: Pauline Warren on Swan Filters NPD

Pauline Warren, marketing manager at Republic Technologies, talks to Asian Trader on biggest ever Swan NPD initiative and more


Can you please give an overview of your brand?

Swan is the No.1 filter brand in the UK’s £293.5 million* tobacco accessories market. It is an iconic, instantly recognisable brand, used by many convenience retailers to signpost the tobacco category.

The Swan range offers everything today’s discerning smokers are looking for, providing a range of quality filters at an affordable price, enabling retailers to meet a wide range of shopper needs, including amongst the more environmentally conscious.

How is your brand currently performing? 

The Swan brand is maintaining the strong growth levels it enjoyed following a major relaunch some years ago which included an eye-catching, contemporary design. The brand has the largest value share of the UK filters market and is currently growing at 4.2%*. Timely, targeted NPD has contributed to this growth, offering consumers more choice with a range of quality products which complement existing Swan SKUs. Innovative merchandising advice and solutions have also ensured Swan maintains the highest possible branded presence in-store, reflecting our commitment to supporting our retail partners.

How is the tobacco accessories market currently performing?

In line with the Swan brand’s strong performance, the broader tobacco accessories market is also recording high levels of growth, up 3.4% in value, with filters up 5.8%*. At a time when increasing numbers of smokers are looking at alternatives to factory made cigarettes, and the emerging vaping sector is still under some scrutiny, growing numbers of smokers are opting for a roll-your-own solution.

Do you have any new product developments to talk about? 

Most definitely! We’ve enhanced the tobacco accessories market this year with our biggest ever Swan NPD initiative. The timely move has seen the introduction of three new menthol filters as part of a range of six new SKUs which also includes Swan Graphite, Swan Long Extra Slim and Swan Eco Loose, each offering a point of difference in the market.

With the menthol ban having just come into force (on May 20th), we know that menthol cigarette smokers are turning to retailers for advice and guidance on suitable alternatives. We’re providing a category-boosting solution which provides all important choice, quality and menthol flavour delivery, enabling smokers of factory made menthol cigarettes to easily transition to Swan menthol filters.

How are you supporting your new NPD? 

We are backing the NPD with a fully integrated trade marketing campaign spanning PR, advertising, social media and direct to store communication, including a wide range of point of sale.

We’re currently running a high profile trade PR and advertising programme (including frontpage advertising on Asian Trader) and complementing this with a series of trade promotions.

Against the background of restrictions on movement, we have focused on digital communication for use by our sales team, including a high impact digital shelf edge display for use in cash and carries. We’ve also developed a digital newsletter and are working as closely as ever with our cash and carry partners to drive sales in depots.

How important are independent retailers to your brand? 

The convenience/independent trade has always been hugely important for tobacco accessories, including Swan filters, and that remains the case today. Its importance is reflected in the fact that 76% of all tobacco accessories sales are in convenience, equating to £224 million* worth of sales. We are huge supporters of our convenience/independent retail partners and enjoy a close and mutually beneficial working relationship with them.

What trends are occurring in the sector that retailers should be aware of? 

Increasing numbers of smokers are turning to roll your own. Most of our customers are people who’ve been smoking for some time and have opted for roll-your-own for a variety of reasons.

Better value for money vs. cigarettes remains a key consideration for RYO smokers, and many people like the tactile aspect of rolling which also has the added benefit of reducing consumption, as smoking becomes less instant.

As with many other categories, environmental considerations are a key focus for us as demand for more natural products, reduced packaging and the removal of single-use plastic increases.

Our current NPD initiative includes the Swan Eco Loose Filter which is 100% biodegradable and the most environmentally friendly filter on the UK market, degrading three times faster than standard cellulose acetate filters**.

What three words would you use to describe your brand? 

Quality. Market-leading. Innovative.

* IRI Total Market 52 weeks to 22/03/20

** Tested over 12 months in an external environment