Philip Morris is to become the second major manufacturer to launch a new cigarette brand into Britain’s post-tobacco advertising ban ‘dark market’.
But buyers are already warning the company to brace itself for a potential flop after failing to secure the collaboration of its usual UK distributor, Imperial Tobacco.
The American tobacco giant had hoped Imperial, which already handles its Marlboro and Raffles offerings, would help it secure a fanbase for new budget brand Basic when it hits stores in the north of England from this month.
But talks between the two companies are understood to have broken down because of a conflict of interests between
Basic and Imperial’s top selling Richmond and Lambert & Butler brands.
Christine Mohrmann, corporate affairs manager at Philip Morris, said: “We will be handling our own distribution for Basic. We were unable to reach an agreement with Imperial that was acceptable to both parties.”
One buyer said he was “astonished” that Philip Morris planned to continue with the launch. “It’s already difficult enough launching a new brand into the market following the ban on tobacco advertising, but without the support of one of the major UK distributors I don’t really see how this can work.”
Another claimed it could be “nigh on impossible” getting some retailers to stock the brand and carry point of sale material because of the stranglehold that Imperial and rival Gallaher, which launched its own ‘dark market’ offering Silk Cut Slims in April, have on the market.
Basic will be available in packs of 10 and £3.89 price-marked packs of 20.
Rolling out in two variants, full flavour offering Virginia Flavour yields 10mg of tar and 0.8mg of nicotine, while Fine Virginia offers 6mg and 0.5g respectively.
Simon Mowbray