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August, 2008

New Tastes of Smoke

By Max Gartman

As regulations in the tobacco industry continue to become stricter, flavored products remain a powerful tool for differentiation and market growth.

Though regulations have tightened, the flavored segment of the tobacco market continues to move forward, affecting the future of cigarettes, snuff, chew, snus, cigars, roll-your-own tobacco and papers, and shisha or hooka.

Two of the largest companies who work with flavors for tobacco are Tobacco Technology, Inc. (TTI) from the United States, and Mane from France. TTI sells flavors for almost every type of tobacco product in styles that range from the standard menthol to fruit cocktail flavors, including apple, peach, orange cream, and tequila sunrise, in addition to custom flavors. TTI also produces flavor-related products with names like “fullness enhancers” and “harshness reducers.” Mane not only works with flavors, but also with fragrances, accessing and working with the bouquet potential for tobacco products.

The demand for flavors used in un-lit products, such as snus or snuff, appear to be centered around non-tobacco characteristics, said Roger Penn of Mane. These flavors can be used “to compliment some of the harsher notes that you’ve got in certain types of snus. You’ve got very high analyical type character, so the non-tobacco flavors cover or mask some of the more ‘unpleasant’ characters that may be perceived by non-regular snuff users.”

Major Trends
With worldwide tobacco supplies decreasing as production becomes more and more difficult, and with problems arising due to anything from legislation to poor harvests, cheaper tobacco has potential in the flavored segment, indicates Max Mai of TTI. “Given the worldwide tobacco shortage, there is an opportunity for less expensive tobacco to be used in tobacco products. To achieve a higher quality end product, flavoring can be used to bridge the gap. This may impact tobacco flavoring in many developing markets…where low tar cigarette development and low-maturity tobaccos are at issue.”

Also worthy of note is the move towards “all natural” or organic tobacco, but Tom Cravotta, also of TTI, warns, the terminology could be a problem. “All natural, organic, and other such labels do not compensate for the facts relating to tobacco consumption. Therefore, the marketing around such terms must be used cautiously. We actually have a licorice replacer that is much better than the natural product because it is more consistent, economical, and easier to work with.”

Roger Penn cites so-called “fusion” flavors as one of the more powerful trends in many areas of the food and beverage industry, which has now come to the tobacco sector. But what exactly are these “fusion” flavors? “It’s not one single flavor but it’s a combination of flavors,” said Penn. “So, you might get some iced coconut or something, so you’ve got a minty coconut type characteristic. And that’s happened a lot in the beverage area for the last five to six years, it’s happening in confectionary. And it just gives a new approach and a new sensation for tobacco products. Fusion flavors are more, you might call them, exotic flavors, with more fruit-type characteristics.”

Snus and Snuff
Snus and snuff continue to be growing sectors of the tobacco market, notably further east, due in part to the fact that anti-tobacco regulations are not as strenuous in these regions. “Generally speaking, the regulations regarding tobacco use in public places and other health precautions are not specifically impacting flavors,” said Max Mai of TTI. “However, there is an increase in the use of oral tobacco for the first time in places like India, Indonesia, and China, and this is creating more flavoring projects involving smokeless tobacco.”

In recent years, the number of shisha or hookah bars in the United States and all around Europe has increased, helping to further bring this historical pastime into the modern world. However, Ayse Adams of TTI said, “It’s likely that Hookah bars in non-traditional markets are a fad similar to flavored cigars…the end result is that there will still be more permanent hookah bars than ever before and the serious ones will stay the course.” When asked if the so-called shisha-boom was coming to a close, Adams, as well as Mark Christiansen of Hellmi, believes otherwise. “The entire sector is still in a growth phase and has not yet reached its peak,” said Adams. “The big break will come when places like China, Japan, Indonesia, and India start smoking [shisha] in large volumes, in addition to when consumption moves from the bars to the home.”

Adams names the “combination,” or “fusion” flavors as a driving force in the shisha market. “These are flavor mixtures that give you a different taste and aroma as you smoke. First you think it is orange, then tangerine, then something else.” Christiansen believes that shisha tobacco will emerge as an influential tobacco product.

Flavors can be applied to cigarettes in three major ways: flavoring the tobacco, flavoring the paper, and flavoring the filter. “Manufacturers will experience the best distribution of the flavor by flavoring the tobacco,” said Jack Rothenhoefer of TTI. “The disadvantage, however, is that a strong flavor will potentially contaminate the equipment and necessitate a clean down procedure for differently flavored products. Filters are a dramatically cleaner alternative, but have a more limited distribution and distinctive performance. What is lost in distribution, however, is compensated partially by the fact that the tobacco is not burned and therefore has less degradation. The advantage to flavoring the paper is to have a disproportionate amount of the flavor in the side-stream [the smoke that comes off the end of the cigarette] smoke as compared to the mainstream [the smoke that one inhales] smoke.”

Penn said that at Mane, there seems to be more emphasis on the aroma of the cigarette than the taste, as far as rolling papers are concerned. “There’s more focus in terms of changing the side-stream aroma rather than the mainstream taste,” said Penn.

Things to Come
Preps are an important focus for the future of cigarettes, flavored and otherwise, according to TTI’s Cravotta. “TTI provides a wide range of services to manufacturers to deal with current flavoring challenges and product differentiation. One example is PREPS - a growing concern for many manufacturers. TTI is receiving many project requests that are specific to the approach the cigarette manufacturers are using to reduce exposure. These projects are tied to a certain design, construction and blend. Filtration, ventilation, the cigarette paper, the leaf type, blending configurations, and by-product type and inclusion are all tools being used by manufacturers to reduce harmful exposure. TTI works collaboratively with various companies to design flavor systems that correspond to whichever of these tools they are incorporating into their cigarette construction.”

“I think there is still the growing need for flavors across the board in all tobacco products,” said Penn. “Certainly, with the continued reduction of tar and nicotine in cigarettes, there’s a major need for both tobacco compatible and non-tobacco light flavoring systems. It depends very much on the consumer group that you’re aiming at and the marketing of the brand.”

Tobacco International - August, 2008

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