Information on Batteries

As Europe’s leading distributor of batteries, Supreme Imports has a 20% share of the UK battery market. One in five batteries sold to consumers in Britain has passed through our distribution centre, so we’ve had to become experts in how they work and their myriad applications.

On this page, you’ll find all the information you could possibly need.

In simple terms, a battery is a way of storing electrical energy to power a wide range of devices – ranging from the small battery powering a watch, up to the larger industrial-grade batteries powering electric vehicles.

Since their development in 1800, batteries have become more and more widespread, to the point that the global battery market could be worth over £100 billion by 2019.

Consumers will generally be looking for one of two kinds of batteries:

Primary Batteries

Also known as disposable batteries, primary batteries are used once and then discarded or recycled. Primary batteries such as those manufactured by Duracell and Energizer are the largest sellers on the UK and EU markets.

Secondary Batteries

Also known as rechargeable batteries, secondary batteries can be re-charged using a specialist charger and used time and time again. A wide number of consumer products – including mobile phones – use specialist secondary batteries, a fact which has driven increased consumer interest in rechargeable versions of primary batteries.

Batteries work by harnessing a chemical reaction within the battery, which is then directed through the circuits of the products they power. This reaction only takes place while the battery is connected to a positive and negative terminal, meaning that your unsold stock can happily wait on a shelf until a customer decides to make a purchase.

250 BC to 640 AD – The Baghdad Battery

Discovered in 1938 by a German archaeologist, the so-called “Baghdad Battery” was a five inch tall pot fulled with copper coils. Despite the name, nobody knows whether this was in fact a battery, when exactly it was made, or what it was used for.

1748 – Benjamin Franklin coins a term

In 1748, Benjamin Franklin describes an array of charged glass plates as a “battery.” The technology fades from use, but the name sticks.

1800 – Alessandro Volta’s Voltaic Pile

Half a century after Franklin, Volta invents the first true battery. His voltaic pile is made of zinc, copper and cardboard soaked in brine, and produces a steady electrical current. Over the next hundred years, English and French engineers would use carbon and zinc to improve on Volta’s ideas, and “wet cell” batteries would power telegraph equipment around the world.

1881 – Dry Cell Batteries

81 years after Volta, Carl Gassner creates a commercially successful dry cell battery. The first recognisable “modern” batteries hit the market.

1949 – Eveready

After the Second World War, Eveready launches their alkaline batteries. More powerful and reliable than earlier batteries, alkaline batteries will dominate the market for decades to come as brands like Duracell (1964) enter the market.

1950s – The Market Grows

In 1956, Eveready launches the first 9v battery, which is followed by commercial watch batteries in 1957.

1992 – Introducing Lithium

In 1992, the battery market changes again. Energizer (founded by Eveready in 1980) launch the world’s first Lithium AA battery, and commercial batteries see their lifespans expand considerably.

By the turn of the millennium, Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries would power a whole host of consumer electronics including mobile phones and laptop computers.

2003 – Battery-Powered Cars

In 2003, Tesla Motors is founded. By 2017, Tesla’s demand for high performance rechargeable batteries sees them dominate the industrial battery market.

Today – Batteries Everywhere

The battery market continues to grow. Consumers require batteries for everything from the watch on their wrist, to the television remote on their coffee table, to the car in their garage. Batteries are now a recession-proof investment for any retailer, and provide the highest profit margins per square foot of any consumer product.

Your customers are looking for batteries. Supreme Imports will make sure you’re well supplied.

As the battery market has expanded, customers are looking for a wide range of batteries. Here’s what they’re looking for:

Alkaline Batteries

General Purpose Disposable Batteries

Alkaline batteries are the most common type of household batteries, providing a large amount of power at an inexpensive price point. Duracell, Energizer and JCB AA and AAA batteries are some of the best sellers on the market, and capacity varies very little from brand to brand.

A standard alkaline battery loses voltage gradually, leading to a steady decline in power output over time. As such, they will quickly be drained by high-drain devices such as digital cameras, as the remaining energy will not be enough to power the device.

High Drain Alkaline Batteries

Specialist Batteries for Personal Electronics

Batteries such as Duracell Ultra, Energizer Lithium and Panasonic Evolta are adaptations of the standard alkaline battery designed for use with personal electronics.

High drain alkaline batteries are a useful mid-way point between standard alkaline products which struggle to power electronics, and more efficient but expensive Lithium AA batteries. As such, they are usually chosen by knowledgeable consumers who are nevertheless sticking to a small budget.

Lithium AA Batteries

High Power Batteries

Lithium AA batteries are one of the most powerful primary battery types available on the market, and typically last three to seven times longer than an alkaline battery.

This makes Lithium AA batteries suitable for use with very high-drain devices, although it should be noted that a Lithium battery will not taper off like an alkaline battery – it will go from peak performance to drained very quickly.

Fortunately, it takes a long time to reach that point. A Lithium AA battery can power a low-drain device such as a smoke alarm for up to a decade. The initial outlay may be higher than with an alkaline battery, but consumers will experience long-term savings in most applications.

NOTE: Lithium AA batteries shouldn’t be confused with the rechargeable Lithium Ion battery packs powering your mobile phone.

Ready to Use Rechargeable Batteries

Reliable Rechargeable Batteries

The main consumer complaint with rechargeable NiMH batteries is that their high self-discharge rate meant that they would not reliably hold a charge when not in use. When compared to the “out of the box” usability of alkaline batteries, rechargeables required forward planning.

Eneloop batteries are the industry’s response to these complaints. Following from Panasonic’s industry-changing eneloop batteries, ready to use rechargeable batteries now have a drastically reduced self-discharge rate. They can now be supplied and sold pre-charged, allowing for the same user-friendly functionality as alkaline batteries.

Nickel-Zinc (NiZn) Batteries

Heavy Duty High Voltage Batteries

Thanks to their chemical makeup and design, Nickel-Zinc batteries are able to provide higher voltages than their alkaline predecessors, with no increase in size or weight.

As such, Nickel-Zinc products are able to achieve a higher voltage with less pack weight, making them cheaper to store, ship and handle. However the trade-off is that NiZn batteries remain one of the more expensive options on the consumer market.

Environmentally-minded customers will find the fully recyclable nature of NiZn batteries more attractive, which will go some way to offsetting objections raised by the batteries’ initial cost.

Zinc Carbon and Zinc Chloride

Traditional Batteries

Popular during the 1970s, these battery types have largely been supplanted by alkaline batteries and as such are rarely offered for sale.

As of 2014, The Batteries and Accumulators and Waste Batteries and Accumulators Directive has aimed to reduce battery waste by making it compulsory for manufacturers and distributors to collect and recycle batteries and accumulators and prevent them from reaching landfill or being incinerated.

Distributors who sell more than 32kg of batteries per year must abide by these rules in the following ways:

  • By registering with a compliance scheme to provide consumer collection and recycling information
  • By providing quarterly sales data by weight and chemistry category
  • By financing the recovery of a targeted percentage of their battery sales

Full government guidance on this directive can be found here.

Supreme Imports’ environmental policy has been implemented to ensure that we and our clients abide by these rules.

As such, we pledge to:

  • Try to establish environmental management systems and pursue environmental preservation activities
  • Understand the impact that our company activities have on the world environment and pursue environmental preservation activities
  • Pursue external auditing of our operation
  • Help to take action for resource and energy conservation, recycling and waste reduction
  • Offer environmental education and raise awareness about environmental preservation

If you require our assistance to meet any of the directives which apply to you as a retailer, please contact our team today.

The European battery market is huge and mature, with consumers demonstrating a regular need for battery purchases, most of which are made on impulse.

By 2019, the global battery market could be valued at more than £100 billion, driven mainly by widespread use of consumer electronics. However, the market for consumer batteries is being pressured by the growth of built-in rechargeable batteries which are now standard with many electronics.

AA and AAA batteries remain the biggest sellers in the UK, while sales of specialist batteries (such as hearing aid batteries) have remained strong.

Digital cameras are one of the key drivers of the primary market batteries, with high powered Lithium AA batteries developed to meet their specific demands.

UK Market Share

The most notable brand names within the UK market are Duracell, Panasonic, Energizer and JCB, with smaller manufacturers finding it hard to gain traction.

Despite this, own-label batteries are seeing a rise in both profile and sales as consumer buying habits change – especially within the supermarket sector.

Battery advertising (usually TV advertising from manufacturers) and sales peak in the run-up to Christmas, making it important to have battery PoS displays prominently displayed during this period.

If you have need of any specific advice on stocking and selling batteries, please contact our team today. We’ll be happy to help you in any way we can.