The West Indian Tobacco Company (Witco) will soon be selling vaping products, its managing director Raoul Glynn announced yesterday, as he also revealed that the company is still actively considering entering into the cannabis market as well.
“We have realised that the world is progressing toward new categories of nicotine devices and West Indian Tobacco will be a part of that journey. So we will be going beyond the arena of cigarettes and going into the area where our parent company British American Tobacco is the worldwide leader in vaping products. That will be a part of the portfolio of the T&T market because our consumers are demanding it,” Glynn said, as he addressed the audience at Witco’s Annual General Meeting held at Queen’s Hall.
This was the first in-person meeting since 2019.
In September 2021, BAT reported that its flagship e-cigarette Vuse had the highest global e-cigarette market share, by value, based on sales in its key markets: USA, Canada, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.
Asked by one of the shareholders if he felt that Witco would be able to make a mark given the saturation of the vaping market locally, Glynn said: “We feel confident, despite the fact that you have that saturation of no-name brands, that a strong brand like Vuse as being the worldwide leader that we can leverage on those things that work. We feel confident, and utilising the machinery that is West Indian Tobacco, that we can cut through any clutter,” Glynn said.
Glynn said research shows that vaping is 95 per cent safer than cigarettes and can assist in cessation.
“We believe the consumer in T&T is ready for that next step. It’s not one or the other, we will continue to have cigarettes for those consumers, adult consumers, who prefer to smoke. But we want to have vaping products for those consumers who choose to do that as well and we feel confident that we need to move quickly on it but do it the right way,” Glynn said.
Glynn said while actively considering entering the cannabis market too, this was not on the immediate horizon.
“The group has done extensive research. They are concluding one in Manchester, England now with consumers. We will take those learnings and see if it is ready to go to market, but at this stage I think it is a little bit far off,” he said.
Glynn said Witco is research-based and intends to “measure three times and cut once” with respect to the introduction of cannabis products.
Yesterday was Glynn’s first AGM as Witco’s managing director.
Glynn acknowledged the “lingering effects of the pandemic, inclusive of devastating socio-economic impacts—such as job loss, income loss, disruption in business, and travel restrictions—which led to reduced disposable incomes in the market and the search for cheaper products across all sectors. This, without doubt, had a negative effect on our performance and contributed to the upsurge of the illicit trade.”
Noting that there have been positive milestones in dealing with the threat, including seizures and the apprehension of perpetrators, he commended the Government of Trinidad and Tobago and in particular, both the Ministry of Trade and Industry and the Ministry of National Security, for the aggressive approach taken towards closing gaps at the Special Economic Zones.
The Government’s recognition of the wide-arching negative impact of illicit trade on all aspects of society and the economy was further reflected in other measures as well, key among which was its commitment to not increasing excise duties. Still, the managing director cautioned there was a continued need for consistent effort in enforcement to effectively combat illicit trade.
Glynn noted that although revenue had declined, the Company recorded profit before taxation of $379 million for the year ended December 31, 2022.
According to Glynn, the company’s performance was made possible by a number of internally driven initiatives which, collectively, were able to offset challenges faced during the period. These included an increase in exports to the region and an $85 million factory upgrade which directly facilitated export to Colombia for the first time.