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December, 2008

R.J. Reynolds on the Frontier of Tobacco Products

By Kyle Timlin

R.J. Reynolds has a vision - to move beyond just cigarettes, and become a full-scale tobacco company.

Beginning with Camel Snus in April of 2006, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company (RJRT) made its first venture into the brave new frontier they call the “modern smoke-free tobacco” category. Two and a half years have passed since RJRT first unleashed Camel Snus into select lead markets, and after gradual expansion into major metropolitan markets, they are now gearing-up to take it national.

As one of the first, and surely most recognizable companies to introduce a snus product domestically, strategy has been key. So how do you go about educating adult tobacco consumers on a product they probably can’t even pronounce correctly?

“There is full marketing support behind the national launch of Camel Snus,” says David P. Howard, Director of Communications for RJRT. “There will be print advertising, an age-restricted web site, direct-mail to age-verified and certified adult tobacco consumers on the brand’s mailing list, point-of-sale advertising, and we’ll also be doing face-to-face interaction in age-restricted venues like bars and nightclubs. And where we have the opportunity, we will sample the product as well, to age-verified and certified adult tobacco consumers.”

Snus itself has been a mainstay in Sweden for more than a century, though this will be the first time many Americans have even heard the term. “It’s been a product recognized there, and our snus, Camel Snus, is made the Swedish way,” assures Howard, “in other words, the tobacco is pasteurized, versus most US moist snuff which is fermented.” Camel Snus is also sold cold, straight out of customized refrigeration units in retail stores.

Lead market demographics may have gotten used to the variety of styles that Snus has been offered in. Come the national launch, however, there will be just two styles available: Frost and Mellow. “Frost would be sort of your mint, and Mellow is really just a non-characterizing tobacco flavor,” says Howard, “but both are tobacco flavor, tobacco products.”

Early next year, RJRT will also begin testing its new line of “dissolvable” products in the lead markets of Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Portland, Oregon. Camel Snus is smoke-free and spit-free, as are the dissolvables, with one extra perk - they fully dissolve in the mouth. “They’re innovative tobacco products that offer adult tobacco consumers an alternative to what they currently choose today,” explains Howard, “but the dissolvable products also meet societal expectations - no smoke and there’s nothing to dispose of - it dissolves!”

There are three types of these dissolvable products making their way into the market. Camel Sticks are like toothpicks, with the option to break a piece off and let it dissolve in your mouth. Camel Orbs are pellet-shaped and used much like snuff or snus, except of course, they dissolve as well. And Camel Strips are, you guessed it, postage-stamp-sized strips that adult tobacco consumers place on the tongue, and let it dissolve.

Howard says the breakdown will go like this: Camel Sticks will be 10 sticks per package, each lasting about 20-25 minutes. Orbs will be 15 per package and last about 10-15 minutes. And Strips will be 20 per package, and take only 2-3 minutes to dissolve. Howard also notes, of course, that everyone will use the products differently.

Some people may think these new smokeless products are a healthier, safer alternative to cigars or cigarettes. Howard notes that no tobacco product is safe, “We are not making any health claims with these products. The most important thing to remember is these are tobacco products, and every tobacco product carries risk.”

However, claims are being made from the medical world in certain studies which purportedly conclude that smokeless products may be less risky than cigarettes. Howard is not easy to budge, but he recognizes the significance of these kinds of studies. “It’s important that adult tobacco consumers be aware of the studies that are out there on smokeless products [and]…aware of the conclusions those studies draw, enabling them to make an informed decision.”

It is still hard to predict the future of the “modern smoke-free tobacco” category, but RJRT’s outlook is quite positive. As Howard puts it, “We take it as a product that should have appeal to all adult tobacco consumers [and]…presents some advantages for them for consumption in that it is smoke-free, it is spit-free, it gives them the opportunity to enjoy tobacco pleasure, as we say, ‘anytime, anywhere.’”

Tobacco International - December, 2008

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