Maybe you’ve only just heard about nicotine pouches and the wide variety of strengths and flavors available. Or, you may be a fan of their flexibility in a variety of environments. Whatever your experience, you may be wondering if nicotine pouches are something we can expect to have access to for years to come. Or could they end up like other products that have come and gone?
While we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future, the past sales of nicotine pouches paired with their current popularity can tell us a lot about their potential. Here's what we do know about how accepted they are in society and what the forecast may be for those hoping they will stay around.
What are nicotine pouches?
First, let's establish what nicotine pouches are—and aren’t. Nicotine pouches are small pockets filled with fibers and added nicotine. They are small enough to fit under your top lip subtly, and most people would never know they are there.
Pouches release nicotine through the soft membranes of your lip and gums and into your bloodstream. This more direct delivery of nicotine resembles the way smokeless tobacco works, but without the drawbacks associated with tobacco.
Some nicotine pouches come with flavoring, too, such as coffee, citrus, or mint. The added taste is something many users enjoy, although flavoring isn’t available in all areas due to state laws regulating flavored nicotine products.
What are the benefits?
The perks of nicotine pouches are what you would expect from a high-quality nicotine product. Those who enjoy the rush or buzz of nicotine from other products will experience it with pouches, too. The different strengths of pouches let you choose a lower amount of nicotine when you’re first starting out or if you’re using the pouches to taper off (and eventually stop) nicotine use.
Unlike smokeless tobacco (chew or snuff), the nicotine pouches don’t require you to spit out your saliva unless you want to. There’s no need to carry a spit container. Pouches won’t stain your lips or teeth, either.
Compared to vaping or e-cigarettes, they are affordable and discreet, so there’s no negative social stigma like when you vape in public.
Given all these benefits, it’s easy to see why nicotine pouches have been embraced as a tobacco-free option for those who want to use nicotine in a more accessible way. Recent changes to how people live and work have also contributed to the rise in popularity.
How COVID changed the market
The sales of nicotine pouches in the U.S. amounted to around $216.89 million in 2020, showing that this market is certainly one to watch. What was driving the growth? Many conditions may have contributed to the explosion, but the COVID-19 pandemic actually set up an environment friendly to nicotine pouch sales.
Consider the following:
- More people are worried about their health in light of COVID risk factors, and some people reported concerns with their lungs after having the disease. As a result, smokeless and tobacco-free products seem more appealing.
- Lockdowns caused more people to work from home, often with family members and new roommates. Smoking seemed impractical without a morning commute or a way to step outside to smoke. Because of these changes in relationships and workstations, a smoke-free option makes more sense.
- Shopping became more difficult for many Americans, causing them to have to order their goods by mail. While most tobacco products aren't available for mail-order, you can purchase nicotine pouches online. This became the best option for many who wanted to consume nicotine in a responsible way but couldn't get to the store.
- Mask wearing made vaping and even chewing tobacco difficult to use. You can use nicotine pouches without spitting or removing a mask, which made them a top choice for some.
All of these factors may have led to the rise in nicotine pouch sales. They have also become acceptable in society as a discreet method of nicotine use, because no one really needs to know you are using one.
Potential for growth
Even without the potential bump from the pandemic, nicotine pouches have all the makings of a widely accepted product. Retailers have their eye on them, too, and have predicted significant market expansion for the category of tobacco-free products. Convenience store experts stated that the consumer market has shifted from one of tobacco users to nicotine users. As a result, “modern oral” nicotine products (i.e., nicotine patches) are selling more.
One chain of 108 convenience stores in particular has seen a growth of more than 40% for the pouch category compared to previous years. The chain spokesperson claims that smokers, vapers, and snuff users are making the switch, especially in light of increasing regulations on smoking and vapes.
Regulation will certainly be something to keep an eye on, with retailers on the lookout for non-flavored options that can stay compliant with the rise in bans on flavored nicotine pouches and liquids. Leading convenience store and retailer publications advise their subscribers to be on the lookout for growth trends, and the nicotine pouch trend is one that they suggest may be one to watch.
Early adoption through the prominent placement of their product and signage may be key to greater sales, something merchandising experts believe may grow. In short: Nicotine purchases are certainly not just a fad.
Bottom line: Nicotine pouches are here to stay
While the market for nicotine pouches will likely change, as we have seen with the banning of flavored nicotine pouches in some states, the chance that they will go away completely is slim.
Many users enjoy this smoke-free way to use nicotine, in controlled amounts, at the time of their choosing. With no expensive kits or accessories to purchase and no need to clean parts, it’s also a maintenance-free option.
Nicotine pouches appeal to those who are looking to eventually stop using nicotine and those who just want to stop using more harmful tobacco products. It only makes sense that the market will grow, and we should see the pouches as an option for some time. Add in the number of people returning to the office after years of working from home, and the nicotine pouch market will likely hold steady as consumers look for ways to get nicotine while working in an office that’s not friendly to vaping, smoking, or spitting.