BAT to Introduce VUSE Brand in South KoreaArvin Peh
British American Tobacco (BAT) plans to launch its VUSE product in South Korea this month.
According to The Korea Economic Daily report on July 17, British American Tobacco (BAT) is planning to introduce its product, “VUSE”, into the South Korean market in mid-July. VUSE, a vaping brand launched by Reynolds American in 2013, was integrated into BAT’s operations after BAT acquired Reynolds American (RJ) in 2017. Yet, as a BAT subsidiary in South Korea, it has not introduced this vape brand in the Korean market.
Previously, KT&G launched its e-cigarette product “Lil Vapor” in May 2019, but halted sales a year later. JUUL, which once held more than 70% of the US e-cigarette market, also withdrew from South Korea just a year after entering the market in 2020.
In October 2019, the South Korean Ministry of Health and Welfare issued a statement “strongly recommending cessation” of e-cigarette use. This recommendation followed a series of severe lung injury cases related to e-cigarettes in the US. A year later, in 2020, e-cigarette sales plummeted by 97.6% from the previous year, and the products also withdrew from the market.
According to data from market research firm EuroMonitor, BAT held an 11% market share in South Korea’s heated tobacco products in 2022, ranking third after KT&G (49%) and Philip Morris International (PMI) (40%).
The Korea Economic Daily report indicates that the current South Korean vaping market is dominated by the company operating the “Bubble Mon” e-cigarette brand and associated specialized stores. Notably, Bubblemon (Huizhou Bubblemon Technology Co., Ltd) was once a wholly-owned subsidiary of China’s Bolton Group. The company produces disposable e-cigarettes under the BUBBLEMON and MONS brands. On July 10, China’s Bolton announced the sale of a 51% stake in its South Korean subsidiary Bubblemon for 100 million yuan.
A South Korean tobacco industry insider noted: “Overcoming consumer unease about vaping is key.” He observed the current market and stated that the withdrawal of large companies from the competition due to government advisories may have a positive impact on the vape market.