Rollout Roundup: Tobacco

Product innovations aplenty in the tobacco category

Tobacco shoppers bring in the largest per-ring cash purchase of any shopper in the c-store, according to Management Science Associates, and manufacturers are treating these high-value customers to a bevvy of new product innovations across the tobacco and OTP segments.

Customization and mixing are in vogue, particularly with foodservice and beverages. Add tobacco to the list. Supplementing the Voodoo Hookah product line are 20 Shisha flavors with matching flavors in Voodoo Steam Stones from Kretek International Inc., which recommends consumers mix flavors in the accompanying ceramic bowl to find unique combinations to their liking.

On the cigarette front, JT International USA rolled out a premium cigarette line, joining its Wave and WINGS brands. Export A is made from premium Virginia leaf tobacco and comes in a stylish slide-and-shell pack.

For discount-tobacco users, Commonwealth-Altadis reintroduced its Montclair cigarette brand with a contemporary new pack design. The relaunch included three varieties: Blue, Silver and Menthol Gold.

Migrating to the cigar category, an emphasis on freshness-enhancing packaging appears to be the anchor of innovation for this time-honored segment. Swedish Match first introduced FoilFresh pouches in 2007, and last month, FoilFresh Red hit the market. A small natural-leaf cigar, the new variety capitalizes on a trend that sees natural-leaf representing the fastest-growing segment in the cigar category, according to the company.

These cigar pouches serve as a humidor, promising longer shelf life and an ability to merchandise higher-ticket cigars. In that spirit, premium cigar manufacturer General Cigar Co. began offering Locked-In Humidity packaging for select sizes of its top-selling Macanudo, Partagas, Punch and Excalibur brands. The protective, airtight packaging provides fresh-from-the-factory flavor in non-humidified environments.

For its part, Swisher has launched two new hand-crafted cigars under its Royal Gold Cigars brand, including Casino Gold High Roller Series and Gold Strike.

Not surprising, the e-cig category is loaded with wide-ranging brainchilds. Recent product tweaks include soft tips for a more natural feel and flip-top packs for a better hand feel. 21st Century Smoke delivered on both with its regular and menthol e-cigs.

NJOY recently introduced a disposable five-pack as a value option for its customers. It’s the same width as a pack of factory-produced tobacco cigarettes, and it also features a flip top.

Innovation didn’t cease with packaging, but the advent of new technology helped add credence to the segment. Powered by what R.J. Reynolds Vapor Co. calls “smart digital technology,” the new Vuse brand incorporates automated manufacturing to ensure a consistently reliable cartridge.

Altria entered the e-cig market with MarkTen, under the company’s innovation-driven NuMark company. The product is based on Four Draw technology, which is designed to give adult “vapers” a more consistent experience.

Lorillard Technologies Inc.’s blu eCigs brand rolled out a new rechargeable “Starter Pack” last month. The company sees it as an option between disposable singles and premium rechargeable packs.

The vision created through upper-management leadership enables innovation to thrive. LOGIC Technology looked to new leadership when former Altria exec Miguel Martin was named president. With 18 years in the industry, Martin most recently served as senior vice president of field sales, running the largest tobacco sales and distribution organization in the United States, responsible for Philip Morris USA, UST and John Middleton’s tobacco products.

Placing the right emphasis on consumer “need states” with e-cigs is still coming into clearer focus, says tobacco consultant Lou Maiellano, president of TAZ Marketing & Consulting Group, Sevierville, Tenn., who indicates “there are manufacturers who, as we speak, are working on potential breakthrough technologies. Time and consumer preference will ultimately determine success for e-cigs.”