Big tobacco companies are investing in a new generation of smokeless alternatives to cigarettes as the industry faces growing regulatory threats across the globe.
The world’s four biggest tobacco companies outside China – Philip Morris International, British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Tobacco – are positioning themselves for an increasingly smoke-free future as they seek to entice smokers to non-combustible substitutes such as electronic cigarettes, tobacco vaporisers and nicotine inhalers over the next decade.
“It will be one of the big discussion points in the industry in coming few years,” says Peter Nixon, vice-president of communications at PMI. “We think [smokeless cigarettes] can be a significant revenue segment in the future as an alternative to cigarettes.”
The smokeless tobacco market, which also includes chewing tobacco and snuff, was worth $14bn of the $664bn world tobacco market according to Euromonitor in 2011, with cigarettes still accounting for over 90 per cent of the total.
PMI is working on plans to launch a cigarette under the Marlboro brand in 2016 where the tobacco is heated rather than burnt – thus creating less smoke and tar – to attract more health-conscious smokers.
Last year British American Tobacco set up Nicoventures, a business division devoted to smoking alternatives, which is working towards launching an inhalable pure nicotine product within the next two years or so. It believes the product will offer a safer alternative to smoking while still meeting smokers’ cravings.
“We don’t see smokeless cigarettes as being a niche product,” said David O’Reilly, BAT’s group scientific director. “This will be a major focus going forward – giving cigarette smokers a healthier alternative whilst not compromising on the taste and the sensory pleasure of smoking.”
The change in direction by tobacco companies comes as the industry faces increased regulatory pressure both in mature markets and emerging economies such as Brazil, South Africa and Uruguay. Last year Australia passed the world’s most strident anti-tobacco regulation, dubbed “plain packaging”, whereby tobacco products are sold in drab, standardised packs with graphic health warnings replacing brands. Plain packaging is also being considered in the UK and the European Union.
The biggest component of the present market for cigarette substitutes is electronic cigarettes, dubbed e-cigarettes, which are unregulated. Imperial, which last year bought an undisclosed stake in an e-cigarette company, said they are poised to expand significantly.
“There is demand from people who want to move from tobacco products … and it will keep growing,” said Alex Parsons, a spokesman for Imperial. “A couple of years ago no one was speaking about e-cigarettes, now there’s a proliferation of companies across the globe.”
Companies have invested in smokeless alternatives before with mixed results. In the 1980s the US conglomerate RJR Nabisco pioneered one of the first smokeless cigarettes, called Premier, at an estimated cost of more than $300m. But it sold poorly amid consumer concerns over the taste and smell.
É extremamente interessante ver a Estratégia na prática – e perceber isso “real time”. No caso, vejam como as grandes companhias do setor de tabaco estão se antecipando e lançando seus próprios produtos substitutos (lembram de Michael Porter ?).
Original por Christopher Thompson and Mark Wembridge do Finacial Times