JTI Korea Exploring Entry into the Korean E-Cigarette Market: A Potential Expansion Opportunity

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Japan Tobacco International (JTI) is considering entering South Korea’s heated tobacco e-cigarette market, intensifying competition.

According to a report by South Korean media outlet Naver on December 13, Japan Tobacco International (JTI Korea) is considering entering the South Korean market for heated tobacco e-cigarettes. In the South Korean market, Korean Tobacco (KT&G) and Philip Morris International (PMI) hold the leading positions, while British American Tobacco (BAT) is playing catch-up. With the potential entry of JTI, competition in the market is expected to intensify.

According to sources in the tobacco industry, JTI is set to replace the e-cigarette display cases in convenience stores with new e-cigarette packaging by the first half of next year, which is seen as a precursor to the launch of a new e-cigarette product. Since last year, JTI has registered over 100 designs and trademarks related to e-cigarettes, leading to speculation that the company is considering entering this market.

A representative from JTI stated that they are considering entering the South Korean market with their global e-cigarette product portfolio. However, they added that they have not yet reached the stage of disclosing the products or announcing a timeline for their release.

In South Korea, JTI primarily sells cigarettes such as Mevius. JTI’s global e-cigarette lineup includes cigarette-style “Ploom,” vaporizer-style “Logic,” and nicotine pouches “Nordic Spirit.” Furthermore, the cigarette-style e-cigarette, “Ploom,” can be divided into the regular “Ploom X” and the hybrid “Ploom with.

According to observations, it has been confirmed that the commercialized product Ploom X is likely to enter the South Korean market. Ploom X was launched in Japan in August 2021, which is the country with the highest e-cigarette market share. As of the third quarter, it has already captured over 10% of the market share in Japan. The company is also expanding globally.

Since July, it has been launched in Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Greece, and Kazakhstan. The company plans to expand its sales range to 28 countries by the end of next year, but it is not yet clear if South Korea is included in that list.

JTI South Korea is approaching the e-cigarette market with caution due to a previous unsuccessful attempt. In 2019, the company introduced a hybrid e-cigarette called “Ploomtech” in South Korea, which utilized electronic pods. However, sales were discontinued in 2021.

However, due to a lack of new growth drivers, the company is considering reentering the e-cigarette market. Over the past five years, the company’s sales have been hovering around 200 billion Korean won, reaching a peak of 500 billion Korean won in 2021.

On the other hand, the tobacco e-cigarette market is experiencing steady growth year after year. According to data from Euromonitor, the tobacco e-cigarette market in South Korea has grown from 359.7 billion Korean won in 2017 to 1.815 trillion Korean won in 2021, a five-fold increase.

A representative from the tobacco industry stated, “In contrast to competitors who have been formulating e-cigarette business strategies, JTI, which has been focused on expanding cigarette production, only recently made adjustments to its strategy.”
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