Feeling the Burn Series Part 1: Tobacco Plain Packaging in Canada

What Effect It’s Had So Far on Retail

Tobacco plain packaging is officially in effect in Canada — what effect has it had so far on retail?

Health Canada’s packaging regulations took effect on November 9, 2019, with a 90-day period for retailers to divest their remaining inventory. Those 90 days ended on February 7.

According to the new regulations, all tobacco packaging has been stripped of identifying details. It all features the same brown base colour, basic grey text, and prominent health warnings. The size and appearance of cigarettes, cigars, and other products have also been standardized.

In addition, some brands have been required to change their names as the regulations prohibit packaging from referencing colour or filter characteristics. For instance, Belmont Silver is now Belmont Select.

Thirteen other countries have adopted similar regulations, and Canada learned from their example. The Canadian Cancer Society has lauded this packaging as being “the best in the world.”

There is more change to come. In 2021, another regulation will take place: slide-and-shell packages that provide a wider area to display health warnings. This change will make Canada’s warnings the largest in the world.

The goal of these regulations is to reduce smoking rates in Canada from 17% to 5%.

What This Means For Retail

For retailers, this shift may come with an adjustment period and a need to educate consumers.

Store processes will also need to adapt as well. This includes:

  • Getting to know the look of each SKU. Only regular size & king size are permitted. Super slim & super king can no longer be sold.
  • Deciding on the best tobacco layout for the store. With plain packaging in effect, all brands will look uniform. This may mean changing the display and making it clear for staff where brands are situated.
  • Training staff on procedures and questions from consumers to minimize wait times.
  • Making sure backrooms are organized for re-stocking shelves.
  • Ensuring that inventory has been switched over from the old packaging to the new.
  • Evaluating customer wait times and trying to decrease them.

“The experience from other countries tells us that smokers become frustrated as they spend more time waiting in line and as they are more likely to be accidentally handed the wrong tobacco product,” said Norman Pridgeon, vice-president of sales at JTI-Macdonald Corp, as reported by Canada Convenience Store News.

For retailers that have been relying on cigarette sales, it may also be time to look for alternatives if fewer people are smoking — as is the goal of the plain packaging.

Seek to understand consumer behaviour and convenience store trends. For example, produce sales at convenience stores have been on the rise.

How has your brand been adapting to the tobacco plain packaging regulations? Share with us on social media. Storesupport is on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Revise your planogram, organize your backroom, ensure stock is kept up-to-date, and more. Storesupport Canada offers customized in-store support for brands and retailers. Contact us today to learn more. Call 1-877-421-5081 or visit www.storesupport.ca.

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