With more countries likely to adopt plain packaging legislation as a logical next step in anti-tobacco policies to limit the power of branding, tobacco companies will have to find avenues beyond packaging to ensure brand influence over a long term, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.
The company’s report ‘The Impact of Plain Packaging on Tobacco Products’ reveals that plain packaging may have some utility in getting regular smokers to quit, but is more effective at discouraging occasional smokers.
Australia was the first country in the world to adopt plain packaging in 2012. The Republic of Ireland, the UK and France followed in 2016. Canada, South Africa, Germany, Japan and a host of other countries are most likely to move towards or consider similar legislation. However, according to GlobalData’s 2015 Q4 consumer survey, only 17% of smokers globally said plain packaging would encourage them to quit smoking.
On the other hand, plain packaging seems to deter occasional smokers. A recent GlobalData survey shows that, amongst smokers in Australia, there has been a shift away from occasional smoking. Occasional smokers and those who smoked only with alcohol made up a combined 39% of the smoking population in 2014, but in 2017 this had dropped to 28%.
Consumer Markets Analyst at GlobalData, Will Grimwade, said: “As smokers tend to start off this way, a decline in this type of smoking habit suggests that young, new smokers have already been put off by plain packaging and older, regular smokers are already making up a far greater percentage of the population in just three years.”
However, plain packaging is expected to have some unintended negative side effects such as the emergence of illegal tobacco trade. When Australia introduced plain packaging, their illegal tobacco market rose by 13% in the first year, costing the government A$1bn in lost tax.
Plain packaging is also likely to affect brand loyalty as the brands can no longer rely on the impact of attractive packaging and the benefits associated with branding in packaging. This could have a shakeup in the market as it could create a more even platform for smaller brands taking away market share from established bigger brands. GlobalData’s 2017 Q4 survey reveals that around 21% of consumers globally said they would consider buying a different brand to the one they usually buy.
Will added: “As pack design and branding no longer serve as competitive differentiators, tobacco brands need to differentiate beyond packaging. Tobacco companies are expanding their portfolios beyond just traditional smoking products. They are even forced to embrace reduced risk tobacco products as a way to ensure a long term future for the sector. Price cuts are likely to be necessary for premium brands. This strategy may allow them to cannibalize sales from value ones, as knowledgeable consumers may see that the price differential between the brands they once saw as too expensive and their own value brand is diminished.”