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September, 2006

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Flavoring Chinese-style Cigarettes

By Allan Liao

A new challenge for a dynamic industry.

The tobacco industry of China, under competitive pressure from transnational tobacco companies, is striving to promote the research and development of aromatization technologies for the production of Chinese-style cigarettes (CSC) as competitive tobacco products of China.

One typically successful tobacco manufacturer in this respect is Huaiyin Cigarette Factory (HCY) in east China’s Jiangsu Province. Today, HCY is endeavoring to turn its leading competitive cigarette brand Yipinmei (the first-rate Plum Blossom) into a representative CSC brand through technological improvements to adding of essences and flavorings to tobacco to make Yipinmei cigarettes more aromatic.

In February 2006, local news media reported that HCY was actively conducting r&d into technologies for adding essences and flavorings in grouped processing of cut tobacco, striving to make the process more pertinent and controllable, and participating fully in the relevant key research projects organized by the State Tobacco Monopoly Administration (STMA), contributing to the gradual development of the core technologies to make Yipinmei more competitive.

In reality, it has been part of a project organized by the Department of Science, Technology and Education of STMA, known as the Project of Research and Development of Core Aromatization Technologies for Making CSC. Since 2004, r&d has been a key part of the tobacco industry’s drive to promote the development of unique characteristics and develop core technologies for the production of CSC.

Key role
The development of core competitiveness of CSC is indispensable for developing unique and different characteristics, and for meeting the expectations of consumers.

The production of CSC requires the use of homegrown leaf tobacco as the basic raw material, in order to keep the aromatic characteristics of Chinese-made flue-cured tobacco, and to further develop the distinctively strong characteristics of nicotine in Chinese-grown leaf tobacco. To scientifically add essences and flavorings is a major approach to bring out the distinct and unique characteristics of cigarette products.

To promote safer smoking and to lower the content of tar and other harmful substances in smoke is a major orientation of CSC r&d. However, many of the aromatic substances of tobacco actually exist in tar. With lower tar content, the natural tobacco flavor and aroma will inevitably weaken, and the cigarette products concerned will lose their original style, which will make it difficult for consumers to accept them. Therefore, the application of aromatization technologies will be indispensable for managing to increase and improve the density and aroma of smoke while lowering the tar content.

Aromatization technologies play an important role in improving the quality of tobacco, stabilizing the quality of cigarette products, meeting the requirement for the development of unique characteristics of cigarette products, reducing the harmful effects of smoking and so on. As the demand for lowering the content of tar and other harmful substances in the production of CSC increases, r&d into aromatization technologies for producing CSC will become more and more important.

Research and development
In 2004, “the research and development of core technologies for adding tobacco essences and flavorings in the production of CSC” was defined by STMA as a priority technological research and development project for the tobacco industry. Eighteen months ago, STMA held a meeting in central China’s Zhengzhou City to start this project, which is mainly intended to solve some difficult problems head on. The first phase of the project covers three research subjects – “ways of appraising the role of monomers of flavorings in cigarettes”, “the behavior of shift of representative monomers of flavorings” and “technologies for aromatic compensation in the production of low-tar-level cigarettes”. STMA hopes that the research into these subjects will first of all bring about a breakthrough in the basic development of technologies for adding essences and flavorings and in the development of human resources in r&d and aromatization application technologies. In 2005 and 2006, STMA separately made arrangements for r&d in several key basic fields, including the research of mechanisms of aromatization by aromatic substances, geneses of aromatization and the system of technical appraisal of tobacco essences and flavorings.

The institutions participating in the research of these subjects not only include Zhengzhou Tobacco Research Institute (ZTRI) and Yunnan Tobacco Research Institute (YTRI) as the research arms of the tobacco industry, but also tobacco manufacturing enterprises in such key Chinese cities as Yuxi, Shanghai, Chongqing, Jinan, Changsha, Changde, Huaiyin, Zhengzhou and Longyan. STMA has also invited universities and research institutions that are not part of the tobacco industry to participate in the research. Essence and flavoring producers have naturally become participants. Obviously, it will require the concerted efforts of key manufacturers and essence and flavoring suppliers and the sharing of resources for the tobacco industry to succeed in achieving technological breakthroughs at all levels and thus build a well-established system of technical support for cigarette aromatization.

Through r&d over the past few years, the industry has made some achievements in the development essence and flavoring technologies, to some extent contributing to the development of aromatic and flavoring characteristics of CSC. For example, both ZTRI and YTRI now boast many professionals highly experienced in terms of leaf tobacco grouping and r&d as well as application of aromatization technologies, the development of essences and flavorings, tobacco analysis, and so on. Over recent years, they have fulfilled many technological research assignments given by STMA, and have purchased a relatively complete range of analytical instruments and apparatuses. Therefore, they are fully capable of fulfilling r&d projects into various technologies for adding essences and flavorings.

However, there still exist many problems that are hindering efforts in the development of CSC. These importantly include relatively weak basic r&d, a lack of systematic r&d into flavorings, insufficiency of available raw materials for making essences and flavorings, and a lack of r&d human resources in the manufacturing sector.

Strategic outlook
In view of the status quo of r&d into aromatization technologies and the existence of many problems in this respect, Professor Xie Jianping of ZTRI has proposed that the research and development of tobacco essences and flavorings should focus on the following three respects in the near future:

First, efforts should be made to conduct basic and regular r&d, including into the role of monomers of flavorings in cigarettes, the behavior of shift of monomers of flavorings in cigarettes, and the styles of cigarette products and consumer demand.

Second, a breakthrough must be found in applying essences and flavorings, including technologies for aromatic compensation in the production of low-tar cigarettes, for adding essences and flavorings on the basis of classification, and in technologies for maintaining the moisture and increasing the aroma of cigarettes.

And third, efforts should be made to explore ways of adding essences and flavorings in the whole process of cigarette production. Namely, efforts should be made to explore ways of adding these to filter tips, coil paper and packets besides aromatizing leaf tobacco and cut tobacco in cigarette production.

Generally speaking, the tobacco industry is still at an initial stage of developing CSC and researching and developing aromatization technologies in cigarette production. Rapid development of essence and flavoring production in the rest of world will bring many new opportunities for the tobacco industry of China.

Tobacco International - September, 2006

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