An e-cigarette market where only one flavour is allowed and there is little competition from both vejp companies and other tobacco companies. In Finland, PMI has emerged as one of the few players actually selling e-cigarettes in grocery stores. However, it is not a disposable model, but a pre-filled pod system with a rather unique e-liquid: tobacco flavours extracted directly from tobacco plants.
"We see it as an opportunity to explore and develop new flavours that can attract more smokers to try a less harmful alternative." Says Mikko Laavainen, CEO of Philip Morris International in Finland, where the Veev pod system is the flagship of the smoke-free range.
As vejpkollen previously reported, the legislation on flavouring in e-liquid in Finland is one of the toughest in Europe. Only so-called tobacco flavours are allowed to be sold. Even unflavoured e-liquid is taxed. The availability of special flavourings for making your own e-liquid is becoming more and more limited. At the same time, the legislation has opened up the market to other products. The tobacco giant Philip Morris International has invested heavily in smoke-free products in recent years, and in Finland they are focusing on e-cigarettes.
"The company is about to change fundamentally. It will not be cigarettes that bring in the money in the future, but other products, such as heat-not-burn, snus, nicotine pouches and e-cigarettes. The goal is that more than 50 per cent of the global revenue will come from that segment in the near future," says Mikko Laavainen when Vejpkollen meets him at the office in Helsinki.
Focus on smoke-free products
There is little doubt that PMI is committed to smoke-free. It is basically the only thing the company talks about in public settings. And the money is there. Cigarettes have been, and still are, a very lucrative business. But it also means that PMI has been able to invest huge sums in developing new smoke-free products. This ambition has been met with mixed reactions from authorities to political groups that have long fought to make life difficult for tobacco companies. The fact that one of the world's largest tobacco companies wants to "put the cigarette in a museum" has caught the eye of many. But it was also the so-called "transformations"who got Mikko Laavainen to change jobs. After more than 10 years in the food industry, he became a local manager at one of the world's largest tobacco companies.
'It was the innovation that attracted me. When I understood what they wanted to do, I also realised the enormous power of this kind of change. Not least for public health. I don't smoke myself, but I have relatives who do. It is inspiring to see how they actually switch to other nicotine products instead." says Mikko Laavinen.
Pod system - but not IQOS
Unlike PMI in the other Nordic countries, PMI Finland only sells the Veev pod system as an alternative to cigarettes. The IQOS heat-not-burn system, the flagship of PMI's smoke-free products, has not yet been launched in Finland. IQOS is a much more successful product from an international perspective. Nonetheless, the Mikko Laavainen the benefits of breaking new ground.
"Veev is a newer product. It's been around for almost two years and it's inspiring to see that it's actually attracting a lot of smokers to switch. We are constantly learning what works and what customers want. This is of course very important for the transformation to work as intended. But it would certainly be an advantage to work with more products in the segment."
Different tobacco flavour
Currently, PMI Veev pods are sold in four flavours and two nicotine strengths. The e-juice in Veev differs from traditional e-liquids in that both flavours and nicotine come directly from the tobacco leaves. It is a so-called Natural Extracted Tobacco (NET) - a niche in e-juice manufacturing that has its roots in the early history of e-cigarettes. A NET juice gets its flavour from the aroma of tobacco "colouring" in water-soluble propylene glycol. This then becomes the basis of an e-liquid, with different tobacco blends producing different flavours. Veev is available in some convenience stores in Finland. The shops selling them must also offer recycling of both pods and battery units.
"The more options the better"
In other countries, such as Italy, where more diverse flavours are allowed, Veev is also available in traditional vejp flavours, such as fruits and berries. Mikko Laavainen admits, very diplomatically, that more varied flavours would certainly have increased the chances of some smokers switching to a smoke-free alternative.
"Of course it works that way. The more options there are, the more ways for smokers to make a life-changing switch. But developing tobacco flavours is an important challenge. We know that smokers actually choose brands according to taste. We want the same opportunities with Veev - based on the conditions we have here in Finland." Says Mikko Laavainen.