Altria's MarkTen to Go National in June


RICHMOND, Va. – The Altria Group Inc.'s electronic cigarette brand MarkTen will soon be getting a spot on the national stage.

The Richmond-based company's Nu Mark subsidiary is on track to bring MarkTen to all 50 states in June, Marty Barrington, chairman and CEO of Altria, said during the company's first-quarter earnings call this morning. The footprint expansion comes approximately 10 months after MarkTen entered its first test market of Indiana in August. It entered its second test market, Arizona, in December.

According to Howard Willard, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Altria, the company has used the test markets to enhance the e-cigarette offering. For example, it has been using different tools to create awareness and trial of MarkTen in Arizona.

In addition, the tobacco company has gained "valuable insights" it will use to compete over the long term, Willard said.

As Altria implements learnings from its test markets, it also faces a changing e-vapor category. Noting that there is "a faster, innovative timeline for e-vapor products," Barrington said Altria began improving its innovation process several years ago to gain better consumer insights and deliver the products they want faster.

E-vapor learning cycles are shorter and Altria is working hard to stay close to the consumer, the CEO added.

Altria also recently grew its vapor product portfolio with the acquisition of the e-vapor business of Green Smoke Inc. and its affiliates. The acquisition complements Nu Mark's capabilities and enhances its competitive position by adding significant e-vapor experience, broadening Nu Mark's product offerings and strengthening its supply chain capabilities, company executives said.

News of MarkTen's national expansion comes on the same day as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released proposed regulations of electronic cigarettes. The regulations – which also affect cigars, pipe tobacco and other tobacco products not spelled out in the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act of 2009 – call for a ban on sales to minors, health warning labels and approval of new products.

Barrington acknowledged that he's read media reports on the regulations, but declined to comment until he reads the proposed rules for himself.

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