Altria to sell electronic cigarette nationwide beginning in the second quarter

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Richmond-based Altria Group Inc. plans to expand sales of its MarkTen electronic cigarette nationally beginning in the second quarter.

NuMark, an product development subsidiary of Altria, has been test marketing MarkTen, beginning in Indiana in August before moving into Arizona in December.

Martin Barrington, Altria’s chairman and CEO, said at a stock analyst meeting in Florida on Wednesday morning that the MarkTen sales in Arizona have exceeded expectations, garnering a retail market share of 48 percent in just seven weeks.

"NuMark will apply all that it's learned to MarkTen's national launch," Barrington said.

Altria announced in January plans to acquire Green Smoke Inc., an independent e-cigarette company started in 2009. Barrington said at the conference that Green Smoke is expected to supplement and add depth to Altria’s e-cigarette portfolio.

Barrington said Altria applied consumer feedback on MarkTen in Indiana to its rollout in 1,900 stores in Arizona. The changes included improving  the flavor systems and adding a USB charger to the package so that consumers do not have to buy them separately..

E-cigarettes are battery -powered devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution.

Barrington said the e-cigarette market is “still in its early days,” with customers just beginning to choose their products and brands. Total sales of e-cigarettes reached $1 billion last year.

The Altria executive spoke to analysts at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York’s meeting in Boca Raton, Fla., which was webcast nationally.

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