According to Korean media Naver reported on December 13, Japan Tobacco International (JTI Korea) Korean company is considering entering the Korean cigarette-type e-cigarette (heated tobacco) market. In the Korean market, Korea Tobacco (KT&G) and Philip Morris (PMI) are in the leading position, while British American Tobacco (BAT) is catching up. With the entry of JTI, competition in the market is expected to intensify.
According to the tobacco industry, by the first half of next year, JTI will replace the special e-cigarette boxes in convenience store cigarette display cabinets, which is interpreted as a prelude to the launch of new e-cigarette products. JTI has registered more than 100 e-cigarette-related designs and trademarks since last year, prompting speculation that the company is considering entering the market.
"We are considering whether to enter the Korean market based on our global e-cigarette product portfolio," a JTI representative said. But he added: "We are not yet at the stage of disclosing products or launch timelines."
JTI mainly sells cigarettes such as Mevius in South Korea. JTI's global e-cigarettes include cigarette type "Ploom", atomized type "Logic" and nicotine bag "Nrodic spirit". Among them, cigarette-type e-cigarette "Ploom" is divided into ordinary type "Ploom X" and hybrid type "Ploom with".
According to observations, Ploom X, which has been confirmed to be commercialized, is likely to become a product entering the Korean market. Ploom X was launched in August 2021 in Japan, the country with the highest share of e-cigarettes. As of the third quarter, its market share in Japan exceeded 10%. The company is also expanding globally.
It has been available in Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Greece and Kazakhstan since July. The company plans to expand sales to 28 countries by the end of next year, but it's unclear whether that includes South Korea.
JTI Korea is cautious about entering the e-cigarette market because it has already had a failed attempt. In 2019, the company launched a hybrid e-cigarette called "Ploomtech" in South Korea that used e-cigarette cartridges, but stopped selling it in 2021.
However, due to the lack of new growth engines, the company is considering re-entering the e-cigarette market. The company's sales have hovered around 200 billion won in the past five years, reaching a high of 500 billion won in 2021.
On the other hand, the tobacco e-cigarette market is growing year by year. According to Euromonitor, South Korea's tobacco e-cigarette market has grown fivefold from 359.7 billion won in 2017 to 1.815 trillion won in 2021.
A person in the tobacco industry said: "Unlike competitors who have formulated e-cigarette business strategies, JTI, which insisted on expanding the scale of cigarettes at the beginning of the year, revised its strategy very late."